Azalea Heights: Culture Shock and Gathering – Best American Indian Magazine | San Jose California
At Rajat Narula Azalea Heights is his second book after The jasmine flowerwhich was released in October 2021. While The jasmine flower emphasizes the fragility of modern life, clashes and cultural rapprochements are at the heart of Azalea Heights’ narrative. The plot centers around a diverse cast of characters, each struggling in a vortex of complex personal and sociopolitical realities.
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Naina, recently divorced, lives with her widowed mother, who is losing her memory. She works hard as a parent, a devoted daughter, perhaps contemplating a new love interest, while dealing with the stresses of a job where she faces sexism.
A proud Pakistani American, Altaf is a friendly small business owner who is unable to connect with his radicalized young American-born teenager, Zain.
Rohan is the owner of a small neighborhood restaurant with big dreams.
Gérard lives with his wife, Ruth, and his teenage daughter, Sara. He is a retired Iraqi veteran who grapples with his inner demons, his PTSD and his war legacy.
There’s also Kate, desperately trying to come to terms with a loss no parent should have to deal with. All of these people live in a development called, no guessing points, Azalea Heights.
Each of their lives, thanks to today’s modern life, is compartmentalized to some degree. But their paths cross. Superficially as neighbors, through park runs and housewarmings.
And another time, when a life-altering incident shakes the precarious peace of the neighborhood when twenty-two students from Winston Elementary School are taken hostage.
The gunmen are demanding the release of Islamic State leaders held in Iraq, all amid a fierce FBI rescue attempt that could have the children killed.
I bet you didn’t see it coming. Or maybe you did…
Unity in diversity
Azalea Heights not only captures the escalating tension and suspicion among neighborhood residents, but also successfully acknowledges the American spirit of sacrifice and camaraderie during a crisis. It also poignantly depicts the strength of basic human emotions like love for our family, grief over loss, and the importance of communication and self-expression that binds us all together as human beings. These are universal regardless of differences in ideological beliefs, religion and political affiliation. Basic emotions that are more unifying than polarizing.
This fast-paced, though poignant, page-turner is still a light read with accessible language and relatable characters in everyday situations. Each character’s story is different, but it is essential to the plot and its outcome. Because of this, no character is a clear protagonist. Additionally, readers have a unique opportunity to understand and comprehend where each of these characters comes from, even as each represents a very different life journey within a larger medium.
As I was crossing Heights of azaleas, I found the book very visual. I kept imagining and replaying the scenes in my head. I don’t know if Narula really wanted it. Or was it just me? Almost like a great script for a cross-cultural movie, the theme, character development, set descriptions, and plot twists all seemed to have the right amount of spice and suspense that would make for an enjoyable time. masaledaar film!
Anyway, as a reader, I found the book entertaining and stimulating. So if you think it’s time to start stocking up on some great summer reading, put Azalea Heights on the list!
Nidhi KirpalThe lives of pre-children were devoted to the complex field of communication sciences. After choosing to be a full-time mother, reading and playing with her energetic boys has been a fascinating journey. It (re)ignited in her a sense of wonder in all the little things. She constantly sees the world through small eyes, applying simple learnings to deepen the meaning of life for herself and her family.