Asha Ray, second-generation American, is a computer scientist. While she is doing her PhD, a chance encounter with her crush from school throws her life and career into high gear. Cyrus is handsome, charming, and knows her better than anyone else. In their excitement and thrill, they stumble upon the next big idea in social media along with their friend Jules. Asha builds this app over months, poring over her computer, to perfect the code; while Cyrus sells the dream. An amazing partnership? The reader is the best judge.
Tahmima Anam’s novel is searing – a cautionary tale for women worldwide trying to break through the glass ceiling in tech. The trio scales their social media for rituals app, WAI, to great heights. Between funding and growth, Asha finds that she is content to remain in the sidelines, making the engine run smoothly. And little by little, she starts to become invisible and voiceless in her own company. As Cyrus and Asha navigate a marriage and a company, things begin to get thorny. As a backdrop, the reader is given Asha’s family, a fantastic set of characters picked from modern day immigrants – who straddle two cultures in their families.
While the novel presents a slice of life in the tech bubble, it struggles to find the balance between the progress of the plot and the day-to-day life of the startup. The latter, though appealing to many readers, begins to make the book rather monotonous is parts. Those completely unfamiliar with the tech industry may struggle to relate to the occurrences and the characters, which will seem completely outlandish and may take away from the core plot of the book.
Having said that, Anam clearly brings her personal experience to the pages. Having run her own startup, her Asha is imbued with her personality. And the eventual end, painful in parts, does provide a very satisfying conclusion. The writing is hilarious and the loose ends are nicely tied together. A neat read.