I would like to first shout out my housemate for lending me the book in the first place and for not being upset that it took me far too long to read it (honestly, most days I didn’t even touch it).
All This Could Be Different is a book written by On Sarah Thankam Mathews, that came out in 2022. And while I may not have read it in one sitting, I did love every time I could spend time getting into the world Mathews created.
Plot and whatnot
Sneha, the main character is from India and moved to Milwauke to work. This is where she meets a few people who she must change with/for. She’s queer, cares about those in her life, but has a hard time opening up to everyone. Something I did notice about the book is that it explained what certain words meant in blah when they were spoken, but it didn’t explain every little detail about her culture that was brought up or do it in a way that took me out of the novel. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to explain every darn thing to the reader in terms of: translating words if it’s not helpful to the plot and just seems like you don’t trust your reader/know your audience, why exactly the character is the way they are by the smallest of details if the story can stand without that (I love novels that leave some room), and sometimes settings (why are there fifty pages on the surrounding area if none of it exists after that).
I loved how Sneha went through different stages with all of her friends. She wasn’t just one way with them every part of her life. She grew with them, learned from them, taught them, and in the process we saw her character develop through the lens of her friends.
This book is about finding different kinds of love, accepting different kinds of love,capitalism and its way of making relationships difficult a house plan, and someone hiding their baggage or not even accepting that those things are there because she hasn’t been taught how to look at her issues, accept them and that you can’t just sweep them under the “make money” rug.
Her parents are in a different country & Sneha is having trouble swallowing why her father specifically was asked to leave America. She has a lot riding on her, so she puts work above her feelings, and wonders what it would be like to be like the Americans she sees being so open and American in a way she doesn’t think she can reach.
She attempts online dating, and meets people who she develops different relationships with. And they bring out feelings that were nonexistent or dormant at first.
Speaking of them, they weren’t one dimensional people. Honestly, I don’t mind a one dimensional character at times. If they’re just there to give ya a laugh, so be it. But, these characters had depth, and not only contributed to the plot + Sneha’s life, but they were vital to those things. Without them=no show.
Fave character: none…I properly enjoyed everyone’s appearances equally. There was great representation too. You get the main character Sneha, Thom (her work buddy who has a hard time standing up for himself & she can talk to candidly to), upfront & funny Tig (queer, Black, leftist who has trouble reading things) (Sneha met Tig on a dating app, but Tig taught her more about friendship & wasn’t quite…never mind),Amit (her ex-boyfriend who is making moneyyy),and Marina (the white dancer who Sneha starts a relationship with, who Sneha is jealous of due to her “American-ness,” though her inability to understand where Sneha is coming from causes rifts).
How I fit in & took it in
The book spoke to me in different ways. I’m no believer that you need to go through the same things as a character, believe what the character believe, or have some major things in common with them to, in a sense, “get” them, but I did have some moments where I actually uttered the phrase “this is so me coded,” and “this reminds me of…” (referring to someone/something in my life). I don’t always relate so much to the character or know of a person in my life who the character reminds me of, and who helps me understand the person in my life a bit better, which are two things that happened here, but I did with this book.
I saw myself understanding the financial pain and questions that came up. I’ve had many, heck, I’m having them as I type this. The idea that money can solve all, and once you don’t have it, you truly feel it impacting everything in your life…including your relationships; this is what Sneha faced.
How things wrapped up & overall feelings
Some novels start off really strong, get stronger, but their ending falls flat. This one, however, started off at “decent” got to “alright, I’ll read this while on the train to work & on my break, to “this ending…interesting.” I don’t have any complaints because I realized everything wrapped up in a peaceful and sensible way, the character clearly does not look the same as when we first met her (she learned & accepted so much about queerness, love, friendship, family & how to balance everything), but I don’t necessarily feel like I have this major “love” for it. I appreciate it. I can say that it it felt like I’ve met every single one of these characters, and that I’ve been all of them. I can say that it was funny reading something as I was going through some of the issues within it.
And that’s good enough for me.
All in all: Nice, easy, slow paced but not boring.