Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India

Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India
Miranda Kennedy
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Random House (April 26, 2011)
Reviewed ARC courtesy of Amazon Vine.
2/5 stars

Miranda Kennedy quits her NPR job and moves from NYC to Delhi to be a freelance reporter, expecting a grand adventure in the footsteps of her parents and great-aunt. She isn't expecting to find that certain things, taken for granted in the U.S., will be difficult for a single woman. Sideways on a Scooter is Kennedy's recounting of those difficulties, as well as the difficulties she sees women native to India experience. She tells of close friendships she makes, of her observations of the dating and marriage experiences of her friends, of the life experiences of her servants and of some of the things she learned as a result of living in India.

Sideways on a Scooter sounds wonderful when put briefly like that, and it should have been a excellent book, as all the elements of a fantastic memoir were present. Unfortunately, Kennedy's narrative style failed her and the story is instead chapters comprised of a messy conglomeration of her surprisingly intolerant opinions, rambling retellings of India's history and her anecdotes, the three of which rarely seem to connect together. When writing about her experiences she has an unsettling way of crossing from the first person point of view into an omnipotent story teller as she tells parts of her story that she really couldn't have known at that time. I gathered, at the end of the book, that perhaps she went back later and interviewed the people in question as to what they were thinking and feeling at the time. This is mere speculation on my part, though, and even if that were certain knowledge, it would do little to alleviate the awkward storytelling style.

In addition, she tended to flip-flop between various time periods in her life in Delhi within a chapter, making for confusion to the reader. Again, as with the history and opinions, these various episodes rarely tied-in together by the end of the chapter, so the point of it is uncertain.

Despite the unprofessional writing style, Kennedy's experiences were very interesting, and I did want to read them, did want to know what happened to her various friends and acquaintances. It's for that reason I give this book two stars. This book would have been unimaginably better had Kennedy stuck to only her experiences there and left out her attempts at history, current events and op-eds, which only made her appear like a spoiled American complaining about a country that is different from her own. Kennedy would have benefited from a reliable editor or pre-reader with the honesty to point out these things. As it stands, Sideways on a Scooter is a poorly written memoir and I would advise fellow readers to give it a miss.

Note: This is my opinion; on Amazon, 43% of the reviews were 5 stars.


  1. Thanks for the review -- I will likely check this out from the library instead of purchasing it. Her interview on NPR was so promising, and as an adoptive mom of an Indian daughter, I enjoy finding new reads about a country we love.

  2. Wow! That is not what I took from this book at all, especially the comments about her "attempts at history, current events and op-eds." This history is still very much a part of modern Indian culture, and its inclusion is necessary for people who live in a very different society to understand why certain things are the way they are there still (including dating and marriage) in spite of all of India's advancement from very third world country into a more modern world. I also don't agree with the comment about her "intolerant opinions," given that she is reporting on a culture that is not her own and is in fact extremely different. I think you totally missed the point of this memoir but am glad the other person who commented is still going to check this out.