1496 Listening to Ainsley
Serena Singh Flips the Script
by Sonya Lalli
Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada (Berkley), 2021
$22.00 / 9780593100936
Reviewed by Myshara Herbert-McMyn
Serena Singh doesn’t want the domestic bliss of a husband and children in her life and she’s ready to show her family that it’s possible to be happy with her new job instead: her dream job at a top advertising firm in Washington, DC. But when her sister gets married in an over-the-top wedding funded by her rich new in-laws, Serena realizes that even her sister is moving forward into that domestic bliss — and Serena is at risk of losing her sister the same way she’s lost so many friends.
Serena struggles with the value of life choices throughout Serena Singh Flips the Script. She sees herself as the epitome of a strong, independent woman who needs nothing but her career to be happy. She seems to believe that this choice makes her more powerful than other women because she chose it. The surrounding women, like her mother, sister, and many of her friends, are getting married and having families. I believe Serena sees this as a forced option, since her family has always pressed it on her and acted as if it was the epitome of success for a woman. If this is true, it makes sense for Serena to not only shy away from the idea of domesticity, but to oppose it. The conflict, therefore, lies in Serena’s inability to accept that the women in her life have chosen their places. Especially since those places are time-consuming and rarely include Serena as much as they used to.
As I got further into the novel, I saw that struggle in Serena. She felt betrayed and almost abandoned by her sister. She began alienating the people around her and pushing them away with the mean things she was saying to them regarding their own choices. I completely understood her family and friend’s reactions as well — I wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who tells me that my choices were wrong and causing difficulties in their life. It took Serena a while to learn from Ainsley, a new friend and mother of an adorable son, that her friends and family hadn’t abandoned her by getting married and having children. The same set of choices stood before all of them, and Serena had simply chosen differently. The biggest difference was that Serena had been told that only one path was available and had immediately run in the other direction, blocking any thought of change from her mind. I think many people forget, like Serena does, that those two paths aren’t opposing one another. The twists and turns in life can loop one path back around to cross over the other, or they can run along beside one another.
Serena Singh Flips the Script isn’t plot heavy, so it’s able to focus on Serena’s character as she grows and develops as a person. Sonya Lalli does a great job of showing Serena’s internal journey towards finding the middle ground. Serena meets Ainsley’s little boy and learns about a different love that comes from being an aunty figure. She questions what she wants and finds herself solid in the choices that she’s made. That was my favourite part of this novel. Even though Serena is being shown that marriage and motherhood are not bad things, she re-examines her own life through that new lens and finds that she made the right choices for herself. But now, she can see that the other women in her life made the right choices for themselves as well. It’s difficult to understand the point of views of other people and the reasoning behind major life decisions, but Serena makes that effort.
Serena Singh Flips the Script takes readers on a journey towards acceptance and understanding through the difficulties of expectations and choices. Though the age of the protagonist is 36, I definitely recommend that young people read this novel. I’m 24 and I don’t have a huge career or marriage and motherhood, and I would have loved this perspective on life about five years ago when I was starting my undergraduate degree. I might have felt that I could choose what spoke to my heart sooner, rather than doing what I had been told the right thing was. Gathering informative — and even fictional — experience is a must for young adults. The more you can learn from the experience of others, the less trial and error you undergo, and that means more time to pursue the things that make your heart sing. Serena is certainly doing that by choosing the right path for herself. What’s the right path for you?
Myshara Herbert-McMyn is a book reviewer and aspiring writer living in Kelowna. She runs the blog Lit&Leta. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Thompson Rivers University. Editor’s note: Myshara Herbert-McMyn has recently reviewed books by Tamara Goranson, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Samantha Knight, Shashi Bhat, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, S.M. Freedman, and Sofi Papamarko for The British Columbia Review.
The British Columbia Review
Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.
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