Shakespeare cautioned that all that glitters is not gold. This lesson runs deep in Sanjena Sathian’s debut novel, Gold Diggers, and many characters learn it the hard way. Happily for readers, Shakespeare’s warning does not apply to the novel itself, a dazzling and delightful work of fiction by an exciting new literary talent.
Teenager Neil Narayan has spent most of his life feeling distinctly average and like he doesn’t quite fit in. Growing up in Georgia to immigrant parents, he is overshadowed by his magnetic and determined older sister, who, annoyingly, seems to have reconciled being both Indian and American. Despite the lofty ambitions that his family and community have for him, Neil struggles to find a drive for anything other than the girl next door, Anita Dayal.
All this changes, however, when Neil stumbles upon the secret that Anita and her mother have been keeping: an ancient alchemical potion that incorporates stolen gold, transferring the ambition and winning traits of the gold’s original owners onto the drinker. Although this potion seems to be the answer to Neil’s prayers, it soon awakens a powerful thirst within him that will not be easily slaked, no matter the consequences for himself or others.
Sathian has produced a beguiling elixir with Gold Diggers, skillfully stirring myth into a playful yet powerful modern-day examination of the American dream and the second-generation citizens who pursue it. A fabulist amalgam of The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye, it’s an engrossing cautionary tale as well as a shrewd appraisal of what we consider success—and the moral sacrifices we make to achieve it.
Imaginative and intoxicating, Gold Diggers richly rewards its readers.