Keya Das’s Second Act by Sopan Deb

Published: July 5, 2022

Simon & Schuster

Pages: 284

Genre: Asian American Literature

KKECReads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Sopan Deb is a writer for The New York Times, where he has covered culture and basketball. He is also a New York City-based comedian. Before joining the Times, Deb was one of a handful of reporters who covered Donald Trump’s presidential campaign from start to finish as a campaign embeds for CBS News. He covered hundreds of rallies in more than 40 states for a year and a half and was named a “breakout media star” of the election by Politico.

Shantanu Das is living in the shadows of his past. In his fifties, he finds himself isolated from his traditional Bengali community after a devastating divorce from his wife, Chaitali; he hasn’t spoken to his eldest daughter Mitali in months; and most painfully, he lives each day with the regret that he didn’t accept his teenaged daughter Keya after she came out as gay. As the anniversary of Keya’s death approaches, Shantanu wakes up one morning utterly alone in his suburban New Jersey home and realizes it’s finally time to move on.

This is when Shantanu discovers a tucked-away box in the attic that could change everything. He calls Mitali and pleads with her to come home. She does so out of pity, not realizing that her life is about to shift.

Inside the box is an unfinished manuscript that Keya and her girlfriend were writing. It’s a surprising discovery that brings Keya to life briefly. But Neesh Desai, a new love interest for Mitali with regrets of his own, comes up with a wild idea, one that would give Keya more permanence: what if they are to stage the play? It could be an homage to Keya’s memory, and a way to make amends. But first, the Dases need to convince Pamela Moore, Keya’s girlfriend, to give her blessing. And they have to overcome ghosts from the past they haven’t met yet.

“The answer you want to give and the truth are two different things.”

Shantanu Das has lived a difficult life for the past couple of years. His youngest daughter died in a car accident, and they had a falling out before the accident. His wife divorced him. His oldest daughter was distant. He was going through the motions. Until he discovered a box of Kaya’s writing in the attic. And suddenly, new life was breathed into the Das family and close friends. Sometimes, forgiving yourself for mistakes you’ve made is the hardest lesson to learn.

I really enjoyed this novel. As a Caucasian female, I loved learning about Bengali culture. It was fascinating. The traditions, the attire, the familial roles. Beautifully delivered and expertly delivered.

This story was heavy. But in such a heartbreakingly beautiful way. This was a journey of forgiveness, acceptance, growth, and learning that it’s okay for life to continue after the tragedy.

I e joyed each of these characters and found their roles so brilliantly written. Everyone has a past, everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay to learn and grow and move on.

Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. When this theme appeared, I felt like it slapped me in the face. The last several chapters in this novel were so heartfelt and truly powerful.

The ending was really just a fresh start. A release. A freedom that was truly deserved and had been hard-earned. Everything about this journey was personal and powerful.

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