The only thing Samar has ever known about her Indian heritage is that she is a Sikh, but that never made a difference to her. However, things change when a man wearing a turban is waiting outside her front door days after September 11. The man claims to be Samar’s uncle and wishes to reconcile with Samar’s mom, who cut off all ties with her family years ago, and get to know Sam. Now, Samar wants to learn as much as she can about her heritage.
Being Indian American myself made me especially excited when I received this book in the mail through Simon Pulse It (although I am not a Sikh like Sam). I have mixed feelings with Shine, Coconut Moon. First of all, the book is set in 2001, but Meminger made several references to things that did not exist back then. For example, I loved how she stated that Sam and her best friend Molly watched Project Runway on DVD when the show did not air until 2004. There were also references to MySpace and Facebook which were not created until 2003 and 2004 respectively. These are small details, but how hard is it to see when these things were created before including them in the novel? The references also made the 9/11 plotline seem forced at times. Throughout most of the novel, I felt that Meminger just added the 9/11 backdrop to give the story a bigger meaning. However, for the last 50 pages or so, the 9/11 backdrop actually worked! Unfortunately, it was too late for it too work completely.
Luckily, there were good things about the novel! I liked how the novel focused on a Sikh during 9/11. Not everyone realizes that Muslims were not the only ones tormented after 9/11. I also really enjoyed Meminger’s writing. She clearly expressed Samar’s thoughts. There were several quotes that I really liked. Here is one of them:
If we give them a chance, people could surprise us. Maybe if we didn’t make up our minds right way, based on a few familiar clues, we’d leave room for people to show us a bunch of little, important layers that we never would have expected to see.
Overall Shine, Coconut Moon was an average read, but Neesha Meminger has the potential to be an amazing author, and I look forward to her next novel.