The comparisons are inevitable: Bright young Brit pens a sharply observed story about life for an immigrant family in modern-day London. Accolades and awards ensue. Roopa Farooki, whose debut novel was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize, is already being called the next Zadie Smith. But Bitter Sweets is so thoroughly absorbing that Farooki proves she needs no comparison. The Karim family is based on generations of deception. As a teenager in Bangladesh, Henna Rub lies about her age and her family's social status to marry the wealthy Ricky-Rashid Karim. Devastated by being tricked into marriage, Ricky-Rashid spends little time with his vain and shallow wife in Bangladesh, building another, more satisfying life in London. It's not surprising when their daughter, Shona, raised in a house so rarely visited by truth, secretly elopes with a handsome Pakistani man, Parvez, and moves to London. But Shona is uneasy in her new home from the start. Staring out the window as they land at Heathrow, Shona is bewildered at the grey patchwork quilt of England: She looked down at her sari, which seemed outrageously garish in this new gloomy and solemn world dressed for a party, she had been taken to a wake. The penniless newlyweds struggle to acclimate to a new country and try unsuccessfully to start a family. Shona asks her father for help, only to learn he's taken on a second wife, a lovely Englishwoman. Shona and Ricky-Rashid make a deal: He'll quietly give her the money for expensive fertility treatments, and in return, Shona will keep his secret.
Shona finally conceives and gives birth to twin boys, but even in this blessing there is deception. Shona hides from Parvez a key fact about the twins' parentage. When the older twin falls in love with Ricky-Rashid and Verity's daughter, Shona is confronted with the question: Can she unweave decades of lies to save her family? Bitter Sweets is a piercing examination of the blurry lines between love and desire, truth and self-protection and guilt and redemption. It's no lie: Farooki tells a vivid, unforgettable story.