I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I really wanted to enjoy To Lahore With Love, but this book was so disappointing. I was looking forward to a fun, light-hearted and entertaining story set in an exciting location, but the story fell flat from the start, with a plot that ranged from slow to unbelievable and writing that felt bland.
Addy Mayford is a half Pakistani, half Irish woman, who loves cooking and her husband Gabe. Her life is a mostly idyllic dream, a haze of romance and sumptuous dishes, until her husband walks out on her. To help Addy heal, her grandmother, ‘Nana’, suggests a trip to Lahore. Nana and Addy’s best friend Jen join her on the trip, where Addy explores the city, meets family members and encounters a new man.
I struggled to relate to or like Addy at all, which made the book very difficult to read. I appreciated the attempt by Belitz to explore the identity issues that Addy faces, being of mixed heritage, however she simply did not explore it enough making it difficult to understand or believe, at the best of times. I couldn’t understand how Addy hid her Pakistani heritage from Gabe for the entire duration of their relationship until their engagement – which was made even more improbably by the fact that their first conversations all focused on aspects of her grandmother’s culture. This simply didn’t make sense to me, from a plot point of view. She also never addresses her husband’s ignorance of her culture, such as his greeting her Muslim grandmother with “Namaste”. This could have all been salvaged if it had been addressed in some way, if Addy’s trip to Lahore helped her to become more culturally aware, more in touch with her heritage and accepting of it. Instead, this storyline had no resolution and there was no sign by the end of the book that Addy had engaged with her heritage on a deeper level or that she felt like anything more than an Irish girl in Pakistan. Similarly, Belitz touched on the issue of infertility, but then abandoned the issue and never returned to it again.
Another issue that I had with this book was the pacing. Belitz spends the first chunk of the book taking us through Addy’s childhood, her youth, the beginnings of her relationship with Gabe. I think that the book would been better if these details were littered throughout the book, instead of having a significant chunk of the book dedicated to events that had no real impact on the main plot. Instead, this approach meant that the book started on the back foot, and the section of the book that is set in Lahore felt rushed and its events felt shallow.
It also meant that the characters felt two dimensional. I think that Belitz saw certain scenes as essential to introduce us to characters of the novel, but I think that she overestimated how much introduction a character needs; we do not need to read an entire chapter of Addy and Jen as schoolgirls to understand that they are close friends., and we do not need entire chapters dedicated to the beginnings of Addy and Gabe’s relationship to understand that she is in love with him. We could simply see these characters in action, and infer this from the text. Generally, Belitz tells, instead of shows us, everything in this book, which makes the writing fall flat and removes the need for imagination and connection with the book; there are whole chunks where we are walked through every feeling and thought that Addy has, instead of being made to feel what she is feeling.
One part of this book that showed potential for me was the recipes that feature in between each chapter. This sections had the light-hearted, whimsical tone that I think could have made the book more entertaining, instead of the more serious approach that was taken. They reminded me of the musical Waitress, and had hints of a romantic, other-worldly tone that could have really saved this book.
Overall, I really did not enjoy this book. I wish that I had, but the aspects of this book that could have made it stand out were just not explored properly. The plot, characters and writing were simply undercooked (pun intended).