Xolo Score 4.25/5
Shantanu Das lives with a lot of regret about his fractured family relationship since the passing of Keya, his teenage daughter. Keya was the youngest of two daughters in a suburban Bengali-American family. She was secretly in love with her best friend Pamela and decided to come out to her family. Keya’s parents and older sister’s reaction lacked support causing a rift between everyone. The split becomes permanent after Keya dies in a car accident and plunges the family into insurmountable grief. Five years later, Shantanu, his wife Chaitali, and daughter Mitali can barely speak to each other without a heavy shroud of guilt looming. One day, Shantanu finds a wooden box filled with pages of Keya’s most intimate memories and a draft screenplay she wrote with Pamela. Shantanu takes these notes and brings the play to life as a second chance to show Keya how much her family truly loves her.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Keya Das’s Second Act explores the fractures unresolved grief sows in an immigrant family living in the United States. Keya’s family initially had an adverse reaction to her coming out because of the initial shock and the accompanying preconceived notions of Queerness they thought would ostracize the family from their immigrant community. But after a month, they realized they neglected to prioritize loving Keya over their personal worries or concerns. Keya’s family’s acknowledgment that they failed Keya and each other causes them to drift from each other after Keya’s death. Shantanu and Chaitali divorce. Chaitali remarries, and Mitali moves to New York, carrying a lot of emotional trauma. Each family member reflects on how their relationship with Keya required them to reassess their cultural beliefs when they weren’t ready. After realizing the ephemeralness of life, they take the opportunity to bring Keya’s play to life by the reigns, not knowing for sure if it would provide the closure and healing they seek.
Keya and her best friend Pamela struggled to express the complex and conflicting emotions of being a teenager but found comfort in each of the notes they wrote each other. From those raw adolescent emotions, Keya and Pamela’s play is born as a way to come out to their parents on their terms before revealing them in real life. And those same emotions transcend and reach Keya’s family when they are sinking deeper into their grief. The Das family’s ability to accept Keya’s love and vulnerability offers an opportunity for healing that they take time to accept. It’s difficult for the Das members to believe they are worthy of anything resembling absolution. But they welcome new opportunities to receive love to make up for the love they denied themselves these past years.
Keya Das’s Second Act is a devastatingly powerful novel about a Bengali American family’s grief, healing, and change journey.
To what extent are there BIPOC leading characters or perspectives?
How well does the author avoid writing BIPOC experiences through the white gaze?
To what extent does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?
How well does the book explore nuances between intersectional identities?