Ariel's Reviews > Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes

Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman
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Jul 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: india-fiction, india-fiction-jana-bibi
Read on July 02, 2012

Thank you to Henry Holt and Company for providing me with a review copy of this novel.

Jana Laird is a woman with one foot in India and the other in Scotland. After a past marred by a smallpox epidemic which blinded her husband and killed her two young daughters, she inherits the Jolly Grant House in India from her grandfather. She decides to leave her surviving son Jack, now a grown man in Scotland and moves in to her grandfather's former residence. When she first sees the house it is a decrepit mess overrun by monkeys but a colorful cast of townspeople soon arrive to welcome her and help turn her new abode into a home.

Just when she is getting settled into her new life an unlikeable police inspector by the name of Bandhu shows up to bully everyone into pay fines and fees. To complicate matters further a plan is put into place which involves the building of a dam that will flood the town forcing everyone to move and start over. To attract tourists to the town, a plot is hatched to make Jana into a fortune teller. She begins the business of Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes, thus the title of the book. Although Jana cannot really see the future, her compassionate ways and knack of giving good advice make her very popular with the townspeople. Will the town of Hamar Nagar be save? With some luck and Mr. Ganguly the fortune telling parrot, fate may be on their side.

This book reminded me of the books from a favorite series, The No. Ladies Detective Agency. Both Mma. Ramotswe in Africa and Jana Laird in India are intelligent, matriarchal types who come from a damaged background. Both of their towns have colorful characters who look to them for support and both ladies really like to drink tea. The ladies detective agency books are a little more cohesive in plot because each one centers around one or two mysteries. There was no central mystery here but there is a problem, the dam that would flood the town. I do find Alexander McCall Smith's writing to be more compelling but since this is the first book in a planned series I enjoyed the novel enough to see where the author takes the story line next.
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