Bravo to Natasha Sondakh, the young Indonesian author for this lovely book. I came across She Smells of Turmeric when my book club (Mad Tea Book Club) invited Natasha as one of the guest speakers. The Indonesian-books talk was back in August 2021, and you can find the discussion here. I was glad to finally be able to read the book – and what a ride!
The author interspersed sections of this book with some great poems. At first hand they might not seem directly related to the prose, especially if you’re not into poetry. I’ve always loved poetry, and for me, the pieces emitted moods and emotions in a way which complimented the narrative. I’m so glad the author decided on this structure. It really added something special to the reading experience.
I definitely got Crazy Rich Asians vibes with this book. Since it takes place in Jakarta, it hits home even more. Being someone who has also lived in the United States and Indonesia, I can relate a lot to Cecelia (our main character’s) cultural experiences. Of course, Cece lives the life of the 0,01% of Indonesians, so if there was ever a sequel I’d be very curious to see what happens when Cece experiences more of Indonesia.
Traumas (potential spoiler)
Somethings happen to Cece which is sadly and unfairly common (1 in 3 women globally experience sexual violence), though I wasn’t expecting it at all in this book. It sounds weird, but I’m glad that section was included in She Smells of Turmeric. It shows that sexual assault, domestic violence, and abuse isn’t just rampant in lower economy societies – it happens in middle and higher up strata too. As a survivor myself, I think the author handled writing Cece’s emotions and reactions carefully and responsibly. It was not simplistic but rather fleshed out and empowering at the same time.
I finished She Smells of Turmeric in a day. Bravo to the author and I am looking forward to read more books from her in the future!
PS : Episode 13 of my podcast is going to be an in-depth conversation with Natasha, so stay tuned!