Review: Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti

Book cover for Dava Shastri's Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti. Illustration of an Indian-American woman with her hands clasped. She has short brown hair, wears sunglasses and large earrings and bangles, and is looking off to the side.

Title: Dava Shastri’s Last Day
Author: Kirthana Ramisetti
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: November 30, 2021
Format / source:
Paperback / ARC from publisher
Purchase: Grand Central
Own voices: Indian-American MC
Content warnings: terminal illness, death, grief, domestic abuse
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for an ARC of this one! Grief is a big part of this book so it’s certainly not a happy book but I really enjoyed it.

The blurb below is very long so if you’d rather go into this book without knowing too much, I’d read the bolded part and scroll past!

In this thought-provoking and entertaining debut novel about of a multicultural family, a dying billionaire matriarch leaks news of her death early so she can examine her legacy–a decision that horrifies her children and inadvertently exposes secrets she has spent a lifetime keeping.

Dava Shastri, one of the world’s wealthiest women, has always lived with her sterling reputation in mind. A brain cancer diagnosis at the age of seventy, however, changes everything, as she decides to take her death—like all matters of her life—into her own hands.

Summoning her four adult children to her private island, she discloses shocking news: in addition to having a terminal illness, she has arranged for the news of her death to break early, so she can read her obituaries.

As someone who dedicated her life to the arts and the empowerment of women, Dava expects to read articles lauding her philanthropic work. Instead, her “death” reveals two devastating secrets, truths she thought she had buried forever.

And now the whole world knows, including her children.

In the time she has left, Dava must come to terms with the decisions that have led to this moment—and make peace with those closest to her before it’s too late.
 
Compassionately written and chock-full of humor and heart, this powerful novel examines public versus private legacy, the complexities of love, and the never-ending joys—and frustrations—of family.

This one has been comped to Crazy Rich Asians and while I’ve only watched the movie, not read the book, I could immediately see the connections. An incredibly rich family and the son’s new partner who’s introduced into their world. However, the ‘newcomer’ is not the main focus of the story here, which I appreciated not only because it would be too similar. Here, the title character is the most important one in the story to watch as we learn her patterns, beliefs, and failures.

The switch between multiple perspectives was a surprise at first but it does give us a good understanding of each family member. The family has more problems to deal with at the moment than usual and seeing the way that each of them reacts to the news, along with the additional context we gain from their 3rd person narration, makes for a much more well-rounded cast of characters.

From the blurb and in my initial reading, I started to expect more of an The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo vibe, especially as each of the main characters are high-profile celebrities, enjoying for the most part the fame that their careers have brought them. I found it interesting that the author has a media and pop culture background as I’m sure that informed the way she wrote her main character.

Unfortunately, there weren’t the same thrilling reveals in Dava. I thought we’d get big surprising reveals, especially based on the blurb, but the book is instead a quieter family drama and it is emotional if predictable.

I did enjoy following this family even if I could see where it was going and it makes for a great holiday read (though it’s sad!) as it all takes place around Christmas in the middle of a snowstorm.

About the Author: Kirthana Ramisetti worked in media for over ten years before trying her hand at fiction. She received her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College, and her work has appeared in Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and more. A pop culture addict whose brain is a repository for random information, she’d make an excellent addition to your trivia team. Her debut novel, Dava Shastri’s Last Day, was published in 2021.

Author links: Website | Twitter | Instagram

What are some books you’ve enjoyed with celebrity characters (real or fake)?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Own voices identification based on information made public by author.
Cover image, blurb, and author info from Goodreads.

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