Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: Karma Gone Bad by Jenny Feldon

In Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangoes, Bollywood and Water Buffalo by Jenny Feldon, we follow the author to India as she and her husband relocate there for two years for his job. When Jenny left behind NYC for Hyderabad, India, she had visions of living a glamorous ex-pat life. After arriving in the dirty city with intermittent power and where getting a simple cup of coffee took herculean effort, Jenny started to question the move. Before long, she was losing sight of who she was and her relationship with her husband was strained - dreams of a glamorous ex-pat lifestyle were a thing of the past. Jenny thinks India and the stresses of living there are the problem but maybe the problems run deeper than the couple's locale.

 Jenny was very satisfied in NY - she loved everything the city had to offer and didn't feel the need to search for more. Traveling abroad was not her dream - she had everything she needed right outside her door. When her husband is asked (read: told) by his company to go to India for a two year stint, Jenny has some reservations but wants to be a supportive wife and fools herself into imagining a jet set lifestyle on the Indian subcontinent. She doesn't seem to do much research about her soon to be new home; her lack of preparedness becomes clear as she aruges with her husband about the number of designer dresses she should bring with her. When she arrives in India, her small dog in tow, she is assaulted by smells and sounds as soon as she deplanes. After a harrowing drive from the airport to their new apartment, Jenny and her husband discover their toilet is in their shower.

Everything is a challenge in their new city - going grocery shopping, getting a coffee, getting from point a to point b. As her husband throws himself into work, Jenny wants to play the perfect housewife but can't bring herself to overcome the many challenges of daily living. Rather than rise to those challenges, Jenny begins to retreat into herself and doesn't try to assimilate to her new home - she becomes overwhelmed by how different everything is from home and starts to resent India and her husband for bringing here there.

 My Thoughts 
I have been to India twice and both times I have been both fascinated and overwhelmed. NYC is fast-paced,loud and smelly but seems ordered as compared to the chaos of India. The author did an excellent job of portryaing what it looks like on the streets of India with cattle roaming about and drivers zipping along without observing any road rules. She also captures the experience of being an anomaly - it was unnerving to have people constantly stare at me (or even touch my skin) because I was white and tall where most people were brown and petite. The sense of personal space which we take for granted doesn't exist in India and I can appreciate how different that must have been from NY where you can be surrounded by people but still anonymous and encased in your own bubble.

At times, I was frustrated with the author - I found so much to appreciate while in India and I couldn't understand why she wouldn't grab on to this experience and wring everything out of it. I have to remember, of course, that I was only there for vacation or a business trip and not to live for two years. Many of the things that frustrated the author where taken care of for me by a tour guide or colleague. Although she didn't prepare effectively for the trip and went into it somewhat blindly, it must be difficult to live there and assimilate under the best of circumstances. My frustration abated as I watched her use the experience to gain insight into her marriage and her own limitations and to start to make changes to better navigate her new home.

This is an excellent travel memoir - I read it in two sittings - the author brings India to life and some of the scenes are laugh out loud funny. The author doesn't shy away from revealing her own foibles which invests the reader in her journey and pretty soon the frustrations with daily living in India fall away and you are watching a young woman learn about herself, her young marraige and how to live in the moment.  I have seen the book referred to as "Carrie Bradshaw meets Eat, Pray Love" and I think that sums it up really well!

Author of the popular blog Karma (continued…), Jenny Feldon was named one of BlogHer's Voices of the Year in 2012. A Massachusetts native, she lives in Los Angeles where she balances writing, motherhood, and giant cups of coffee—mostly all at once.

I received a copy of this e-galley from Netgalley.


  1. This sounds like such an interesting book and I enjoyed your insightful comments from your own experiences in India.

  2. Having been an expat myself, I have a feeling I can relate to this book. Granted, we lived in France, which doesn't compare to France, but it wasn't easy and it wasn't glamorous.

  3. Would love to read her reactions to India, a place I have never visited. but am curious about.

    Harvee at Book Dilettante

  4. Ooooo you have me thinking I need to check this out. I hope it's available on audio.

  5. This sounds like a memoir I'd enjoy. Thanks for telling us about it. It seems a bit like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

  6. Excellent review! I think I'd have similar frustrations with the author, although I would relate to the challenges of expat life, having done it 3 times with my husband. It does take more effort than a vacation. I liked getting your insight, though, as a repeat visitor to India.

  7. My cousin and his family have been living in Bangalore, India for the past 2 years and this memoir sounds so much like their "daily life anecdotes" - can't wait to read it! A great autobiographical novel about life in India is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (see my review:

  8. Wow the author seems to Really not like India; that's a different kind of travel writing eh? But then it seems more memoir. It's too bad she could latch on to something there. cheers.

  9. I had to gape at that first paragraph - how could she expect a jetset life in India unless she was heading to live as an ambassador's wife or with several servants? I guess this is the first time I'm coming across someone who was going to India expecting riches, usually it's the opposite I see - people terrified of the poverty they will encounter. I'm glad the author learned a lot from her experience in India.

  10. Thanks so much for this enlightening post. No place like the USA. :)

    ENJOY your week.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved December/January Edition. I am in the list as #33.

    My book entry is below.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

    If you get a chance, also stop by this fun post: What Would You Give Your Book Character For Christmas?