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Sari, Not Sari

About The Book

INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER

This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun.


Manny Dogra is the beautiful young CEO of Breakup, a highly successful company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. As preoccupied as she is with her business, she’s also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents.

For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father, who were both born in India, always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So that’s what she did. She knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that’s never been a problem—until her parents are no longer around, and an image of Manny that’s been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Suddenly, the woman who built an empire encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis.

But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he’ll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother’s wedding.

What follows is days of dancing and dal, masala and mehndi as Manny meets the lovable, if endlessly interfering, aunties and uncles of the Patel family, and, along the way, discovers much more than she could ever have anticipated.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Dear Breakup,

Curious… are ALL emails confidential?

Asking for a friend.

Charlotte

“If we just have you lean a little more to the left and have your lips lightly touch the mug and… BIG SMILE!” I shifted my weight on the kitchen island, doing my best to follow the photographer’s direction. At least the interview was taking place in my own home.

“And…” He clicked the camera one more time. “That’s the one. Beauty. Okay, Maggie, she’s all yours now.”

The photographer gestured to the attractive woman walking across my living room in impossibly high heels. She hopped onto a stool, stretching her long legs to the side, and looked straight ahead with a veteran TV host concentration I was not about to interrupt.

“5, 4, 3…” announced the voice in my ear. “We’re live!”

“Recognized as one of California’s Top Forty Under Forty CEOs,” Maggie Johnson read from her cue cards in her anchorwoman news voice. It was deeper than her real voice, the one she used for meetings and dressing down her assistant. “She was just on Cosmo’s list of Top Ten Self-Made Women, and Forbes magazine recently celebrated her company as a multimillion-dollar business. Please welcome back to the show CEO of Breakup, Manny Dogra.” Maggie smiled, revealing a set of pearly whites that looked almost too bright against the sedimentary layers of TV makeup.

Good Day with Alex and Maggie was the most-watched morning show on the West Coast. Maggie’s name appeared alongside Lilly Singh, Kelly Clarkson, and Robin Roberts as one of the most successful hosts on TV. But rankings are fluid. Maggie was fighting for more than the top spot on that list—she was also fighting what the blogs referred to as “the first signs of aging.” It was only a matter of time before the show would be retooled as Good Day with Alex and Someone Else.

“Manny, it is soooo good to see you again,” she said, propping the cue cards on her exposed knee.

“Thank you, Maggie, good to see you again, too,” I said, using my soft TV voice, the one I had honed over several hours of media training.

Breaking news: Maggie was not only a wildly popular TV host; she was also a client. She had split from her husband using one of my handcrafted breakup letters. A few weeks of coaching followed by the letter was all it took. My one-on-one sessions with Maggie were just the push she needed to break things off without, as she put it, “hurting Frank’s feelings and invading his privacy.”

Breakup was all about privacy and integrity. I had built an entire company—some might say empire—facilitating client breakups. Then there was the follow-up work, such as the no-regrets sessions and the self-confidence boot camps that encouraged people to put themselves back out there.

“Girl, you are on fire,” Maggie said, trying hard to sound like the twentysomething she was dating now.

“Thank you so much,” I said, beaming with the TV smile I had perfected.

“Right before we sat down, the assistant producer informed me that Breakup has successfully managed more than 150,000 clients,” Maggie stated proudly, as if she had shares in the company.

“We just hit that number as the company went public yesterday. It’s all thanks to my hardworking team,” I replied enthusiastically, knowing they were more than likely glued to their TV screens at this very moment and would appreciate the shout-out.

“That is impressive, gurrrl.”

I felt sympathy for Maggie, trying to stay up on the latest slang.

“A team that is celebrating another anniversary this month, am I right?”

“Three years!” I beamed back at her.

“And it all started with just a simple email?”

“If the emails were so simple to write, Maggie, Breakup would be out of business.” I chuckled.

“So true, gurrrl, so true.” She leaned in as close to me as she could without risking a fall. “So, what is the secret to your breakup sauce? You’ve been on our show many times before as our resident relationship expert, but let’s dive into the business of Breakup. Tell us how it all started.”

“Well, I spent my late twenties coaching friends through crumbling relationships. I guess you could say I had a knack for crafting the perfect email—not only to the men I had dated but also to my friends’ partners, who just weren’t getting the hint that it was time to move on.”

I thought back to those emails. The guys weren’t the only ones to blame; some of my friends couldn’t be bothered with proper closure. “We’ll always be friends,” they liked to say in an attempt to soften the blow. “I think we should slow things down,” they’d suggest as a way to make the other person feel better. What they didn’t understand was that sometimes the soft touch simply didn’t work. Not that the opposite approach was any better. A swift “We’re through!” or an intense “It’s over, I just can’t do this anymore” doesn’t do anybody any good.

“But what is that essential ingredient we all seem to be missing in perfecting the art of an amicable breakup?” Maggie asked, as if she were considering writing her own breakup emails one day.

“You know, it takes the right balance of firmness and compassion to let someone know it’s officially over. My team has figured out that secret recipe. And for now, it’s staying in our kitchen.” I smiled. “But I will share this. We know that nine times out of ten, you can just forget that nonsense of breaking up in person. It rarely works. Too many tears. Too much sex. Too much opportunity for drama. And texts are bad. Too casual and uncaring. Emails are best—especially when you have an assist. We follow a thoughtful strategy that involves crafting the perfect email and figuring out the best time to send it—”

“Which is… Monday?” she asked, as if emphasizing she had never used our services, so she certainly wouldn’t have read the standard client onboarding email titled “Your Essential Guide to What Day of the Week to Send Your Breakup Email.”

“Monday mornings—no. Holidays or celebrations—double no. Thursday evenings—yes! Our data tells us that breaking up on a Thursday is best—when it’s followed by a sick day on Friday, it gives the client (and the newly designated ex) a three-day weekend to heal and get ready for whatever Monday might bring.”

“That does sound so compassionate, and I think we all could use some of that in our relationships, too.” Maggie paused as if reflecting on her many failed attempts at being a partner. “And recent relationship polls suggest that people are breaking up in record numbers?”

“That’s right, and those people are calling us in record numbers. Our services have expanded to include an à la carte menu for all your relationship management needs. No one needs the external anxieties often associated with a breakup: ‘Are you sure about this?’ ‘Maybe you should consider settling?’ ‘You’re over forty, it’s going to be impossible for you to start over!’ Not when Breakup can handle all of that for you.” I smiled widely, feeling good about our recent addition of new services, which had taken over a year to come to fruition. “I like to remind people that Breakup focuses on the real you, not the one who has been filtered to fit the frame of the most popular app.”

I thought back to our numerous breakups, realizing that the “real you” aspect of things was tough for many people. In particular, understanding who they were rather than who they thought they should be, especially when their identities were reduced to a hashtag: #singlegirl #singlepringle #hunkymess #instahot #beautiful #girlswithink.

“We encourage our clients to be proud of who they really are, not who they pretend to be. And we certainly don’t want anyone to feel they have to settle.”

“I love that. The real you.” Maggie emphasized real as she tried to move her over-Botoxed forehead. “So, let me tell you, I know many people who use Breakup.” Here she cleared her throat. “They always say great things about you. But there are those who find your services to be… how should I put this… inappropriate?” Maggie narrowed her eyes as if she had just broken some White House scandal.

“Well, Maggie,” I said, prepared for this, “we’re living in an age when we just don’t have the time—or even words anymore. We use emojis to describe our feelings, and ‘likes’ to slide into DMs. Dating apps can create entire relationships based on a few simple swipes. Unfortunately, far too many people try to break up the same way. How many times have you found out your relationship ended by waking up to a ‘single’ status on social media, being blocked by your ex on WhatsApp, or being dumped through a TikTok video?”

Maggie looked directly into the camera and raised her eyebrows as if to say, No way!

“I’m not making this up,” I continued. “These days breakups are like proposals on the internet. Everyone’s trying to find unique ways to do them.” I thought about the bride-to-be who had discovered that her fiancé had hooked up with their wedding planner. Three weeks before the big day he posted a picture of the two of them on his social with the caption, “Some things you just can’t plan for.”

“Closure doesn’t come easy these days, but what does come easy is contacting us.” I took a well-timed pause, giving the camera a knowing look to acknowledge that I was going into my spiel.

“Breakup brings back the honor, kindness, and closure necessary to let go of someone and give them the end they deserve. We also help you get back up on that horse after you’ve been knocked off a few times.” Women always laughed at the horse analogy, and Maggie did too, right on cue.

“Because sometimes you just don’t want your own friends to help you get back up,” she added.

And she was right. People who kept going back to a relationship eventually felt embarrassed and even judged when talking about it with their best friends. And on the flip side, best friends were often exhausted hearing about it. At Breakup, we never got tired of hearing about any relationship.

“Consider us a new friend who offers you advice without any judgment, the friend you know will still be there after you break up.” Press release words, I thought, making a mental note of my ad-lib and patting myself on the back. Figuratively, of course.

“That’s a new service you provide, am I right, Manns?”

I grinned at Manns; it was better than gurrrl.

“That’s right! Now Breakup is also offering the Tidy Up package. Think of us as Marie Kondo for your love life. We’ll help you clean up with our one-on-one consulting services. New place. New wardrobe. New start to your dating life,” I said proudly. “A whole new beginning.”

“Breakups are just so darn hard,” Maggie said. “I remember back in the day wondering if I had done the right thing ghosting”—she winked at me, a not-so-subtle way of acknowledging the hip word she had just used—“some of the men I had dated. Now, if only your services had been around ten years ago.” She shrugged her shoulders as if in reference to the multitudes of men who had been after her back in the day.

I heard a thirty-second countdown in my ear, and my thoughts quickly went to my publicist’s words: “Call to action!”

“Breakup is here now, Maggie,” I said, as if to remind her of our repeat client discount. “We understand that regardless of how you decide to move forward, the person you break up with will be thankful that at the moment, we… you”—I gave her a sneaky smile—“took the time to break up with them tactfully.”

She nodded. I could have sworn I saw her wink at me.

“Up next, we return to the studio, where Mark and Katie will be talking to one couple who is celebrating fifty years of marriage!”

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Sari, Not Sari includes an introduction and discussion questions for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Manny Dogra is the CEO of Breakup, a company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. She's also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents.

For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So she knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that's never been a problem—until an image of Manny that's been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Now, the woman who built an empire by encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis.

But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he'll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother's wedding . . .

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Manny's company, Breakup, encourages others to end relationships that aren't making them happy. Why do Manny and Sammy stay in relationships that aren't working?

2. What do you think of Breakup's “no temporary breakups” policy? Why do you think it came to be?

3. Do you think the service Breakup provides would be successful in real life? Why or why not?

4. How did the sudden loss of her parents affect Manny? How has she been dealing with her grief?

5. How do you think the perfect breakup should be conducted? What does closure look like to you?

6. Manny's relationship and home with Adam appear perfect, but what is their relationship lacking?

7. Why have Manny's close friends, like Rob, hesitated talking to her about her grief and about her relationship with Adam?

8. Some immigrant families eagerly pass on traditions, like Sammy and Rajiv's, while others, like Manny's, prefer to assimilate. What drives these different views?

9. How does the meaning of family change for Manny throughout the novel?

10. Anjali's note on page 251 reminds Manny, “Yes, you are Indian. You were always Indian.” What are some of the reasons that keep Manny from realizing this?

11. On page 265, Aliyan tells Manny, “[T]here is no one way to be Indian.” What does Aliyan teach Manny about embracing their shared culture?

12. The whitewashed Beyond More cover catalyzes Manny's journey to connect with her culture—though the cause of that journey is actually a deep betrayal. What does Manny learn about how Adam sees her?

13. How do Manny's priorities shift through the course of the novel? What does Sammy show her about what's important?

14. What does Sammy himself learn through the course of his week with Manny?

About The Author

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Sonya Singh is a former entertainment reporter turned communications professional who has followed her dream of telling stories in front of the camera and now behind the scenes. Her debut novel, Sari, Not Sari, is an ode to her own personal dating experiences, during which she honed the art of writing the perfect break-up email/text. Sonya lives in Toronto, Canada. You can follow her at SonyaSinghBooks.com and on Instagram @SonyaSinghWrites.

Why We Love It

Sari, Not Sari is a candy box delight of a romance that also manages to compellingly explore themes of heritage, family connections, and, of course, love relationships in an utterly addictive storyline that kept me reading until the very end in a single sitting. I honestly can’t remember the last time such a tale had me so enthralled with its utterly mesmerizing characters, and that highlights perfectly what an vibrant new voice Sonya Singh has, and just how amazingly talented she is.”

—Laurie G., Senior Editor, on Sari, Not Sari

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 5, 2022)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982185916

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Raves and Reviews

“Has all the ingredients for the most delicious rom-com: family intrigue, workplace drama, an intrepid heroine, a beguiling love interest, laugh-out-loud moments, and a madcap supporting cast. I just loved this delightful debut about finding love in a complicated world—and discovering who you are at the same time!”
— MARISSA STAPLEY, New York Times bestselling author of Reese’s Book Club Pick Lucky

“Pure rom-com gold.”
— ALI HAZELWOOD, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

“An effervescent rom-com.”
— Elle Canada

“Singh’s heartfelt novel drew me in from the first pages. Readers will root for Manny on her compelling journey of identity and self-discovery. Filled with humour, cultural insights, and love, Sari, Not Sari is a story that will make the hours fly by!”
— SAUMYA DAVE, author of What a Happy Family

“[A] delightful debut rom-com. . . . Chock-full of breakups and makeups, this energetic love story marks Singh as a writer to watch.”
— Publishers Weekly

“This romantic comedy has witty dialogue, likable characters, and a humorous tone. . . . The writing has moments of brilliance and insight that will resonate for the characters and readers alike. . . . This debut author’s career will be worth watching.”
— Library Journal

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