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Newlyweds Asha and Cyrus build an app that replaces religious rituals and soon find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Meet Asha Ray. Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. Cyrus inspires Asha to write a ne Newlyweds Asha and Cyrus build an app that replaces religious rituals and soon find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Meet Asha Ray. Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah? In this gripping, blistering novel, award-winning author Tahmima Anam takes on faith and the future with a gimlet eye and a deft touch. Come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look at startup culture and modern partnership. Can technology—with all its limits and possibilities—disrupt love?


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Newlyweds Asha and Cyrus build an app that replaces religious rituals and soon find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Meet Asha Ray. Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. Cyrus inspires Asha to write a ne Newlyweds Asha and Cyrus build an app that replaces religious rituals and soon find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Meet Asha Ray. Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah? In this gripping, blistering novel, award-winning author Tahmima Anam takes on faith and the future with a gimlet eye and a deft touch. Come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look at startup culture and modern partnership. Can technology—with all its limits and possibilities—disrupt love?

30 review for The Startup Wife

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    “Go get yourselves a post-nup. Your odds aren’t good.” 3.65 stars The Startup Wife is a character study about newlyweds who launch a social media platform. As they experience success, their marriage faces growing challenges. Will they become another statistic, or will they survive the greatest of tests? Narrated by Asha Ray, there is a lot of Asha telling the reader about her relationship with her husband, Cyrus Jones, and the progression of their tech-startup platform WAI, but not many opportuni “Go get yourselves a post-nup. Your odds aren’t good.” 3.65 stars The Startup Wife is a character study about newlyweds who launch a social media platform. As they experience success, their marriage faces growing challenges. Will they become another statistic, or will they survive the greatest of tests? Narrated by Asha Ray, there is a lot of Asha telling the reader about her relationship with her husband, Cyrus Jones, and the progression of their tech-startup platform WAI, but not many opportunities to observe. Parts of their relationship are glossed over, but the development of WAI is detailed. I felt more about their passion for WAI than I did for their relationship, as I didn’t feel the connection between Asha and Cyrus. The pacing is slow and a bit uneven. While Asha and Cyrus’s relationship occurs at a whirlwind pace, the development of WAI is slow and sometimes grueling. Although Cyrus and Asha’s relationship is one of the main themes, this is not a romance. Some of the themes explored include gender roles, class, race, and the dynamics of being a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men. In addition to Asha and Cyrus, there is an eccentric cast of characters who make appearances. The plot is timely and tech-forward. I am not a tech person, but I did enjoy Tahmima Anam’s witty take on the industry. This book grew on me slowly. I would put it down and read others, but I always came back to it. I wasn’t a fan of the narrative style, which was at times too detailed and slow, and other times, too sparse. However, the more time I spent with Asha, I grew to like her. On the other hand, I couldn’t stand Cyrus and frequently wanted to smack him. He is selfish and narcissistic. In the end, this isn’t a story about Asha Ray and Cyrus Jones. It’s the story of a woman finding her way, understanding her power, and taking ownership of her voice. I won a copy of this book from a GoodReads Giveaway!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This satirical short novel by Tahmima Anam examines the trajectory of love and marriage amidst the milieu of AI, a new start up and a tech culture that is far from innovative when it comes to key issues, as it fails to address society's traditional power structures, with its privileges and prejudices, indeed it embeds and nails them in without a second thought. Bright computer programmer Asha Ray is a PhD student at MIT for whom love's young dream seems to come true when she meets and marries ol This satirical short novel by Tahmima Anam examines the trajectory of love and marriage amidst the milieu of AI, a new start up and a tech culture that is far from innovative when it comes to key issues, as it fails to address society's traditional power structures, with its privileges and prejudices, indeed it embeds and nails them in without a second thought. Bright computer programmer Asha Ray is a PhD student at MIT for whom love's young dream seems to come true when she meets and marries old school crush, the charismatic Cyrus Jones. Asha blithely enters the marriage with rose coloured glasses, exuberantly confident that they will prove that their marriage will not only survive but thrive under the pressures of simultaneously embarking on a tech start up with Cyrus and his best friend, the rich Jules. Cyrus wants to emulate for non-believers the sense of community, the sacred, the rituals and traditions that fire religion. The idea is to centre on the power of humanity that will be the foundation, and the social media App that evolves will bring his ideas to fruition. All three bring their own strengths into the ambitious venture, Cyrus with his initial ideas, Jules adding the business acumen, but the heart of the social media WAI enterprise is built by Asha, it is her algorithms that give birth to the business. However, as WAI takes off, exceeding their wildest dreams and expectations, it is Cyrus who takes centre stage, hailed as The Messiah, and Asha who is marginalised, pushed to the sidelines and rendered invisible. As Cyrus's ego and corruption plays out in the narrative, where will this leave Asha, the marriage, and the startup? Anam writes a thoughtful and thought provoking novel on the tech industry, power, race, gender, feminism, marriage and love, about the inner need for faith, ritual, and the spiritual in humans, along with the desire to connect with each other. I found this an engaging, if occasionally uneven, character driven read that incorporates and utilises the global pandemic in the story, and reflecting many contemporary realities of our world. Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    An app which can replace religious rituals that turn its inventors into new Messiahs! Wow! Okay, this one is quiet original and picked my interest with its unique opening! Let’s dive in blind and explore more! Let’s meet with three friends: Asha and Cyrus: married couple and their best Jules concentrate to invent something about rituals of religions thanks to Cyrus’ special ability to create something original about them. But as soon as they become more famous and popular on social media, they An app which can replace religious rituals that turn its inventors into new Messiahs! Wow! Okay, this one is quiet original and picked my interest with its unique opening! Let’s dive in blind and explore more! Let’s meet with three friends: Asha and Cyrus: married couple and their best Jules concentrate to invent something about rituals of religions thanks to Cyrus’ special ability to create something original about them. But as soon as they become more famous and popular on social media, they start to pay the dues of the quick fame. It costed more moral problems and complex dilemmas they’d expected. The book also questions so many issues at first hand including sex, friendship, racism, marriage issues, religion, traditions, the startup technology! Cyrus and Jules are mediocre, not so likable but also hatable characters! Asha won the contest as more connectable character with her quirky brain and her character’s evolvement was so much better than other two! Overall: it’s interesting, thought provoking, riveting, different, easy read for me which kept my interest intact. The characterization was a little flat but ideas are creative, entertaining. I’m giving my 3.5 tech, ritualistic, nerdish, social media stars rounded up 4 unputdownable stars! Special thanks to Mimi Chan, Goodreads team, NetGalley, Scribner for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    Review published on blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend... When it comes to Business, it’s not always a Pleasure – even if you’re working with Loved Ones. Asha and Cyrus went to the same High School. At the time, Asha had had a huge crush on him little did she know that years later, they’d meet again, fall in love and start a company together, along with their best friend Jules. The idea being their tech startup is all Cyrus, the brains behind it Asha. Jules is the glue that holds them to Review published on blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend... When it comes to Business, it’s not always a Pleasure – even if you’re working with Loved Ones. Asha and Cyrus went to the same High School. At the time, Asha had had a huge crush on him little did she know that years later, they’d meet again, fall in love and start a company together, along with their best friend Jules. The idea being their tech startup is all Cyrus, the brains behind it Asha. Jules is the glue that holds them together. Cyrus is a big believer in what drives people and what they are looking for most in their lives. In thinking of this, he comes up with the idea of a social network based on what rituals people are needing most in their lives, based on their interests, and connecting them with others around the world who are interested in the same. It all happens at a place called, you guessed it “Utopia” – where the magic happens every day. While Asha is the one that codes an algorithm to do exactly that, it is because of Cyrus’ personality that their business is successful and it is he, who gets all of the attention. Though their app “WAI” becomes a success, not everything works out quite as planned, leaving Asha out in the cold. There are plenty of lessons to be had here – regarding diversity and inclusion in the workplace, discrimination, equality, partnership, and marriage, and whether or not it’s a good idea to keep those separate. A truly intriguing premise, the idea of friends creating a tech company together immediately drew me in to “The Startup Wife” by Tahmima Anam. What began out as an evenly paced, character-driven novel about close friends who actualize a dream, soon became an extremely slow burn where the characters took a back seat to the technical aspect of building a business. Towards the end, however, the characters’ stories were once again front and center, with Asha and Cyrus leading the charge, which helped re-invest me in the storyline. If you work in the tech industry, as I do, you may find this book to include a few interesting tidbits about creating and beta-testing apps and the analysis of stats when the apps go live. I admit to experiencing a bit of inner “geekdom” in a few of these moments. A huge thank you to Mimi Chan at Goodreads, NetGalley, and Scribner for the arc. Published on Goodreads on 1.29.21.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    I work in tech, and books are my way of escaping that world for a short while every day. So The Startup Wife seemed like the last thing I'd want to read. But my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to see if the hype was justified. Asha is a computer programmer, studying for a PhD at MIT. She's intelligent and hard-working, eager to make her immigrant parents proud. One day Cyrus, her high school crush, comes back into her life. He has always been an enigmatic figure, operating on a diffe I work in tech, and books are my way of escaping that world for a short while every day. So The Startup Wife seemed like the last thing I'd want to read. But my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to see if the hype was justified. Asha is a computer programmer, studying for a PhD at MIT. She's intelligent and hard-working, eager to make her immigrant parents proud. One day Cyrus, her high school crush, comes back into her life. He has always been an enigmatic figure, operating on a different wavelength to everybody else. Along with his wealthy friend Jules, he encourages Asha to create a new algorithm, one which takes the hobbies & interests of users and turns them into a ritual. Before long they have developed this idea into a social media platform, and a highly successful one at that. Asha sees her feelings for Cyrus reciprocated and they marry. Their app is more of a triumph than they could ever have imagined, but the whole thing quickly becomes overwhelming, and cracks start to appear in their relationship. I understand that the aim of the book is to satirize tech culture and to show up social media for all of its ridiculousness. However, the story is straining so hard to be topical that it forgets to make its characters compelling. I feel like I have come across Cyrus many times before, the guru with all the answers, who becomes corrupted by power. The plot follows a very predictable path - it held no surprises for me. I suppose it does have some interesting things to say about marriage, and the way that success can transform it. But overall, I expected a great level of insight from this novel instead of a well-worn, formulaic story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    “Look, we’re here to restore something to people who have grown up in the shadow of social media—those who are living their entire lives in public. We want to address the thirty-seven percent who say they don’t believe in God because their politics or their sexuality excludes them from organized religion. We believe that even the non-religious among us deserve our own communities, our own beliefs systems, whatever they may be based in. Ritual, community, that’s what religion offers that no other “Look, we’re here to restore something to people who have grown up in the shadow of social media—those who are living their entire lives in public. We want to address the thirty-seven percent who say they don’t believe in God because their politics or their sexuality excludes them from organized religion. We believe that even the non-religious among us deserve our own communities, our own beliefs systems, whatever they may be based in. Ritual, community, that’s what religion offers that no other human construct has been able to replace. Until now. We are here to give meaning to people, to restore and amplify faith—not in a higher power but in humanity”. Ideas are easy. Implementation—harder! Newlyweds, Asha and Cyrus plan to revolutionize Artificial Intelligence. They think it matters. Personally, I had to think about Asha and Cyrus’s plans. Here is what I knew about “The Startup Wife”, before I read it. 1- “Cute Title”— There is actually more to learn about being a new wife than people realize. I mean, how well did mum teach her daughter about being a wife? Did movies teach wives how to have a successful marriage? Schools? Not so much... So, I thought this book might be fun to see how the young bride and couple pan out. 2- The second thing I knew about this book was the author had an impressed bio. Tahmima Anam is the recipient of a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, an O. Henry Award and has been named one of Grants’s best young British novelists. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and was is recently elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Born in Dhaka. Bangladesh, she was educated at Mount Holyoke College and Harvard University and now lives in London, where she is on the board of ROLI, a music tech company founded by her husband. So... it made a little sense to me that Tahmima might write a ‘techie’ book about a couple working together. She and her own husband work together. (very cool) But...then I thought about mixing technology and ‘newlywed’ love together. Both ‘startups’, business and love startups require time to move beyond the honeymoon. Good luck! I knew challenges were coming. I thought about the couples purpose: ‘transform? revolutionize? .....Artificial Intelligence? Yikes.. good luck again! As a species, humanity has witnessed three previous industrial revolutions: first came steam/water power, followed by electricity, then computing. Now we’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, one driven by artificial intelligence and big data..... So, maybe Tahmima was really on to something: Al gives intelligent machines ( be it robots, drones, or whatever), the ability to think and act in a way that previously only humans could. But ‘for me’, Tahmima’s book...it was a little too gimmicky. (smart, fresh, modern, savvy)... but not without flaws. Our main characters wanted to build an app to replace religion—build a social media platform that would be the most popular in the world exploring romance and ambition, faith and technology..... when it seemed to me....( under the humor, satire, dialogue, and new algorithms), the heart of the story was really about how well did young couple - new to marriage — did working together in business while working on their relationship.... and maintain their other friendships. Some things were just personal taste- my funny bone has limitations. This satire-ish crafting ...was just too many things...over-stimulating in thought and purpose, for me. Other readers might totally enjoy the exclusive incubator, Utopia.... surrounded by quirky futurists engineering mechanical bees and lab-grown superfoods.... while exploring Technology with all its magnificence and limitations, and abilities..... while questioning can newlyweds survive their own marriage working together? Tahmima Anam just might be the perfect young author for our changing world. She’s an innovative thinker for modern times... adding warmth to the humorous prose. Me, I’m an old fart, happily married to the same guy 42 years. I think Paul and I could have easily survived working together as newlyweds— we kinda did. He volunteered at the company I worked for. We’re both interested in making a difference in the world as our young cast of characters were in “The Startup Wife”.... but even though we live in the heart of Silicon Valley ... we’re naturists at heart... The technology culture is already to big for me... Yet, it’s very real as Tahmima points....that relationship, spirituality, and faith in humanity can be found in the on the internet. I experienced something new yesterday from the social media world.... Thanks to the Technology...love-friendships...and social media networking... NBC news was following a discussion I started on Facebook. ( silly me-I thought I was just chatting with a group of friends).... Kaiser hospital members were at a very unfair advantage in getting Covid-19 vaccinations in the Bay Area. I started a discussion about it. Our little discussion between friends, (Lisa from Goodreads too), was being watched. Who knew? We didn’t. Point is we made a difference. Everyone over the age of 65 in the Bay Area, no matter who their insurance carrier is now allowed to go anywhere to get their Covid vaccination. Until yesterday that wasn’t true. So I am thankful for love friendship, working together and technology. Paul and I are getting our first vaccination this morning. Ha.... so that’s what this book brought up for me....a reminder of my own experience of the power of social media... faith and love. Thank you Mimi, for sending me this book... Thank you for netgalley, and Scribner for a copy of the ebook... Also wishing Tahmima much joy with the release of her first novel.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    This is such a smart, funny book with loads of insights on race, privilege, ego, and marriage dynamics. Asha has had a crush on Cyrus since high school. Now in her twenties, when Cyrus re-enters Asha’s life, they begin a whirlwind romance that very quickly leads them to marriage and creating a new tech startup, called WAI. Asha decides to drop out of her PhD program to write this algorithm and give it her all. Early in the process Cyrus, the charismatic and vastly intelligent high school dropout This is such a smart, funny book with loads of insights on race, privilege, ego, and marriage dynamics. Asha has had a crush on Cyrus since high school. Now in her twenties, when Cyrus re-enters Asha’s life, they begin a whirlwind romance that very quickly leads them to marriage and creating a new tech startup, called WAI. Asha decides to drop out of her PhD program to write this algorithm and give it her all. Early in the process Cyrus, the charismatic and vastly intelligent high school dropout, states that he does not want to be involved in the business aspect of WAI, but rather as a researcher. Jules, Cyrus’ best friend, joins the team and together they embark on trying to revolutionize, and ultimately save the planet should the apocalypse occur (ambitious), how people use social media through these personalized rituals. When WAI becomes a huge hit these three struggle with the problems that come with overnight success, wealth and power imbalances. Tahmima Aman has cleverly delved into what it’s like being a woman of colour in a male-dominated industry, how a white man can claim the work of a person of colour as his own, and how all of this can breed entitlement and over-inflated egos. I was rolling my eyes with Asha at many of the mansplaining sections in this book. Like hello guys, she literally wrote the program. This is a quick, humorous read that shows the potential dark side of the tech industry. I will now read anything that this author publishes. Thank you to Netgalley, Scribner, and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erin Clemence

    Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: July 13, 2021 When Asha Ray meets cerebral, philosophical dreamer, Cyrus Jones, there is an instant connection. Soon, Asha is abandoning her PhD fellowship and working with Cyrus to develop a new social media platform unlike any other. When the two are rocketed into multi-million-dollar success with Cyrus as the figurehead, Asha works Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: July 13, 2021 When Asha Ray meets cerebral, philosophical dreamer, Cyrus Jones, there is an instant connection. Soon, Asha is abandoning her PhD fellowship and working with Cyrus to develop a new social media platform unlike any other. When the two are rocketed into multi-million-dollar success with Cyrus as the figurehead, Asha works diligently in the background. Things slowly start to fall apart as Cyrus continues to grow more successful, and when their platform results in the death of one of its users, both Cyrus and Asha are at a crossroads with their business, and with each other. Tahmima Anam is an award-winning author, and her previous works, like “The Good Muslim” and “A Golden Age” have received immense amounts of praise. “The Start-up Wife” is her newest novel, and it is the only one I have read by this author (so far). Asha is both female and Bangladeshi, working in a male dominated tech world, and her relationship with Cyrus forces her to take a backseat to his brilliance, in both the marriage and their work. Asha herself admits that she “makes herself smaller” so that Cyrus can “be bigger”, and this is just one of many feminist themes in this novel. If anything, “The Start-Up Wife” will get you thinking. I loved Asha as a protagonist- I found her to be both fierce and brilliant. Cyrus was a less likable character for me. He was entitled and arrogant, adored by others because of his charm, but completely unable to do anything on his own. He was smart, in a dreamy, theoretical way, but his success was based utterly on his ability to relate to other people socially. As the business grew, I sided with Asha in every argument, and wanted her to realize her potential and branch out on her own. It was easy to see, though, how these two worked together as a couple, and their relationship was realistic and believable. The story was told well, even if the language was very techy and “millennial”, as computer nerds working in the Google-like offices of Utopia develop apps and platforms that will help users when the apocalypse comes. It was a little beyond my means of understanding sometimes, but I was thoroughly invested in the characters, and the inner workings of computer development was intriguing (even if, as a completely computer illiterate reader, I did not always understand it). “The Start-Up Wife” is modern, informative and extremely relevant. The romance between Cyrus and Asha, set with a techy, computer-development backdrop, rampant with feminist themes, is both unique and engaging. Anam is a clever writer, full of talent, and I look forward to exploring more of her novels!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Tahmima Anam was one of the 20 Granta Best of Young British Novelists list 2013, following the publication of the first two parts of her Bengal Trilogy, which chronicled three generations of a family through the Bangladesh war of independence to the present. But when she announced her latest novel, Startup Wife, she commented (https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-...) that she wanted to move away from feeling the obligation to tell Bangladesh’s history and that she was “wanted there to be more li Tahmima Anam was one of the 20 Granta Best of Young British Novelists list 2013, following the publication of the first two parts of her Bengal Trilogy, which chronicled three generations of a family through the Bangladesh war of independence to the present. But when she announced her latest novel, Startup Wife, she commented (https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-...) that she wanted to move away from feeling the obligation to tell Bangladesh’s history and that she was “wanted there to be more lightness. More of a sense of possibility”, describing the new novel as the “feminist rom-com I've been waiting my whole life to write - a story about love, invention, and feminist geekdom.” She even submitted the book to publisher’s under a pseudonym, presumably to avoid the ‘but this isn’t the sort of book you write’ push back. And The Startup Wife is indeed a very different type of novel, one that I can imagine as a movie, and, I have to say up front, not really my type of book (or film). It is narrated by Asha Ray, an expert program, who both marries and founds a tech start-up with Cyrus Jones, her high-school crush and now something of a non-religious guru, together with Jules, a friend of Cyrus’s. The start-up centres around an app that essentially uses Asha’s AI algorithms and Cyrus’s wide knowledge to recreate tailored pseudo-religious rituals for those not attracted to organised religion. Large parts of the story are a gentle satire of tech-world, with people eating “fermented rhubarb chia puddings” and that like, and initially everything in both Asha’s personal and business life goes very well. When she tells herself, halfway through the novel that: I’m going to write a marriage guide, I think. I’ll call it The Startup Wife: How to Succeed in Business and Marriage at the Same Time. I’ll tell everyone how great it is to mix everything together—work, love, ambition, sex. Anyone who says business and pleasure doesn’t mix is an idiot. I can see it in Barnes & Noble, propped up on a table between How to Stay Married and Startups for Dummies. it is rather inevitable that both parts of her life will unwind, in both cases due to much of the attention on the business, from press, customers and investors, focusing on Cyrus not Asha, and him making increasingly hubristic decisions as a result. Another element of the novel, as the author explained in interviews, is to expose tech culture: People in start-ups talk about disrupting things. They want to disrupt everything, but what they don't disrupt are the fundamental structures of power. They don’t disrupt gender power, and they definitely don’t disrupt class. They maintain and fuel and perpetuate the systems of oppression that we have been living with for centuries, but they just disguise it as the new. And as Asha observes when they visit silicon valley (the start-up is actually based in a New York incubator, giving her some critical distance from the wider sector): Other things we don’t like: the sanctimonious way they talk about how much of their money they give away. Their insistence that they are on the right side of politics, even if they support The Terrible One, because what they are doing—upending the order of things—is, by its very nature, progressive. Change is everything. If you help people change the way they order their pizza or the way they pay their bills or the way they lose weight, you must be doing some good in the world. For that, you deserve money, and lower taxes, and even a wife with a better ass. My issue with the novel is that the rom-com part is rather that, and the exposure of tech culture doesn’t really say anything terribly insightful or new. That said, there were two aspects of the novel I did enjoy. Firstly I was delighted to see the narrator and his wife bonding over, amongst other things: we read the same book, a Korean novel about a woman whose family freaks out when she stops eating meat, and then we talked about meat, and about Korea, and about our families. A reference of course to Deborah Smith’s translation, The Vegetarian, of 채식주의 자 by 한강, which won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. And who was on the jury that awarded the prize? Tahmima Anam. Secondly, I was impressed with the way that the early stages of the Covid-19 epidemic were integrated seamlessly into the story, given the novel was originally developed prior to the crisis - indeed it was done so well, making the gradual emergence of a potentially apocalyptic epidemic and its consequent effect on both social greetings and death rituals key to the plot, that I am left wondering how the story would otherwise have progressed. Overall, a quick and enjoyable read albeit not one I found that profound. The 2 star rating reflects my personal taste for something rather more substantative. Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "No one wants to be married to the guy everyone thinks is going to save the world." Asha is a skilled coder and drops out of a PhD program to start an app with her high school crush, at the same time they decide to marry on a whim. Cyrus only wants to be involved if they can "do things differently," and goes on to be the guru-CEO of their company that helps people create rituals and connect outside of a traditional religious background. I like the combination of start-up culture with marriage dyna "No one wants to be married to the guy everyone thinks is going to save the world." Asha is a skilled coder and drops out of a PhD program to start an app with her high school crush, at the same time they decide to marry on a whim. Cyrus only wants to be involved if they can "do things differently," and goes on to be the guru-CEO of their company that helps people create rituals and connect outside of a traditional religious background. I like the combination of start-up culture with marriage dynamics, the guru persona and what it's like to be connected to it, and then the author even writes in the pandemic (which works perfectly with this start-up!) You may recognize the author from historical fiction novel A Golden Age which is set in 1971 East Pakistan; I read that at the end of 2019. Both books include women who are in a high-stress situations but they have very different feels and sensibilities. I had a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss, which I sought out after seeing it on The Millions' list.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Lots of buzz about this book but it's not for me. Firstly, it's very different from Anam's The Bones of Grace which I totally loved. This feels more like a fable which tries to merge contemporary concerns about tech/social media with an artificial feminist-y add-on. There's in-your-face satire of hipster-ness ('we get three coffee hemp mylkshakes with extra CBD shots') and the whole direction of the tale is pretty clear from early in (view spoiler)[tech will take off, Cyrus will get arrogant, no Lots of buzz about this book but it's not for me. Firstly, it's very different from Anam's The Bones of Grace which I totally loved. This feels more like a fable which tries to merge contemporary concerns about tech/social media with an artificial feminist-y add-on. There's in-your-face satire of hipster-ness ('we get three coffee hemp mylkshakes with extra CBD shots') and the whole direction of the tale is pretty clear from early in (view spoiler)[tech will take off, Cyrus will get arrogant, no-one takes notice of Asha's warnings, she's proved correct, it all goes wrong (hide spoiler)] . I've read the tech USP somewhere else - or is in from a film? (view spoiler)[technology which collects big data so that it can replicate communications from dead people as if they were still alive - the potential for it to go off the rails is clear, so it's hard to buy in to the fact that the main characters can't see that (hide spoiler)] . And the tacked on Covid ending which may be the apocalypse...? Just not my style of read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    What goes on in Tahmima Anam's brain for her book to have an app that creates replaces religious rituals? This is, like, the most original thing ever. The Startup Wife is a quick and enjoyable contemporary novel that effortlessly explores relationships, religion, society against the background of tech. Tech-lovers would love this book, much like I did. And the social commentary is seamlessly woven into the book. The overall dynamic of the characters was interesting to read, Utopia sounds like Utop What goes on in Tahmima Anam's brain for her book to have an app that creates replaces religious rituals? This is, like, the most original thing ever. The Startup Wife is a quick and enjoyable contemporary novel that effortlessly explores relationships, religion, society against the background of tech. Tech-lovers would love this book, much like I did. And the social commentary is seamlessly woven into the book. The overall dynamic of the characters was interesting to read, Utopia sounds like Utopia, and integrating COVID so smoothly was definitely difficult. However, the pacing was uneven. The start of their relationship flew past, but the development of WAI was developed slowly. Cyrus and Asha's chemistry was not quite there, and I felt like they were both married to WAI more than they were to their relationship. But a book where the romance doesn't take the forefront. All of the characters grew me. Cyrus's spiral into the spotlight was fascinating to read about. Jules' dedication to Cyrus was understandable. Destiny was a #girlboss. However, most of the characters lacked depth. I think that Tahmima Anam dove deeper into the constructs of society rather than the characters. Overall, it was quite an enjoyable and refreshing contrast to what I usually read!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    3.5 stars. I am not sure I would put this in the category of satire, exactly, though it certainly spends a lot of time poking fun at startups and startup culture. To me it's mostly a comedic drama following three friends through their startup journey, specifically tracking how their successes parallel the unraveling of their relationships. Asha is a programmer getting her PhD and feeling stuck when she runs across Cyrus, a guy she had a huge crush on in high school. Cyrus is one of those special 3.5 stars. I am not sure I would put this in the category of satire, exactly, though it certainly spends a lot of time poking fun at startups and startup culture. To me it's mostly a comedic drama following three friends through their startup journey, specifically tracking how their successes parallel the unraveling of their relationships. Asha is a programmer getting her PhD and feeling stuck when she runs across Cyrus, a guy she had a huge crush on in high school. Cyrus is one of those special people, charismatic and magnetic, the kind of person who makes you feel special by association. Asha can't believe it when he falls in love with her and they get married. Asha and Cyrus's best friend Jules are so enamored with him that they want to bring his talent of building ritual and meaning into people's lives to the world and together they create an app. Except technically they didn't create it together, Asha builds it almost entirely by herself. But as they try to get their business off the ground, things start to get fuzzy. There is a lot that this book gets really right, especially with a dynamic of romantic partners or male/female friends where Asha steps aside or is hidden from view not because of any malice but because they want the best possible outcome for their business. Success is the goal and success is less likely with a woman of color as the face of their business. But even though Asha is part of these decisions, it's clear as you read how no one really bothers to fight for her, either. Some of it is socialization and the way men and women see situations differently, too. Some of it is how Cyrus and Jules come from places of privilege and Asha is the daughter of immigrants. It is just easier to do it this way, it will make them more likely to succeed, and gradually the water gets hotter around them until it's boiling. This isn't just with Asha's role, but everything. How the app will work, who they take funding from, how their revenue plan works, and on and on. The satirical elements are everywhere, especially in the startup incubator called Utopia. Some of this is wildly funny and some of it doesn't quite hit. There's an amplified reality to many of these jokes, things that don't look like they could ever take off, and yet stranger things have happened. For a while I thought this was set in the near future, which explained how surreal some of it seemed, but it turns out it's set in the recent past and ends in 2020. The reason this came in a little lower for me is that Cyrus just doesn't work. I don't think this is entirely Anam's fault because this kind of character basically never works. (Zadie Smith couldn't pull it off, I am waiting to see if anyone can.) The super charismatic character is a very tricky thing, because it's hard to express that on the page. It is such an intangible thing that we have to just accept that it's happening. Here, though, it's also the central marriage that never fully gets fleshed out. Cyrus and Asha rarely have conversations on the page that aren't about work, so we don't really have much of an idea of what the foundation of their relationship is, how they relate to each other, etc. I really would have liked more of that. Includes discussions around consent in sexual encounters, off-page miscarriage and infertility, on-page suicide, much content around death and religion.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    How I read this: Free ebook copy received through Edelweiss Oh, I have so many thoughts about this book. Please read the long review for those. This is the short version. The Startup Wife was an amazing book, and I find myself still thinking about it long after I’ve finished it. It was just one of those books where you start reading it, and you know it’s going to be an instant hit with you. I can only compare The Startup Wife with books like Daisy Jones & The Six, Oona Out of Order, maybe even Th How I read this: Free ebook copy received through Edelweiss Oh, I have so many thoughts about this book. Please read the long review for those. This is the short version. The Startup Wife was an amazing book, and I find myself still thinking about it long after I’ve finished it. It was just one of those books where you start reading it, and you know it’s going to be an instant hit with you. I can only compare The Startup Wife with books like Daisy Jones & The Six, Oona Out of Order, maybe even The Oracle Year (although they’re all a completely different kind of story, there’s a mood and a vibe that matched for me.) It’s hip, even a little hipster, but it’s also down to earth. You can somehow relate to it, even though your life isn’t even close to the one the characters are living. It’s serious, and yet has quite a lot of humor and easy going vibes, despite exploring some really dark, tough human relationship areas. All I can say is I wish I chanced upon more books like The Startup Wife, because these books are why I read in the first place – these are the kinds of books I’m always looking for. For women who have worked in newer companies, or possibly engineering and IT, there will be a lot they can relate to. There were times when I had those “oh, girl” moments when I was reading it. It’s amazing to be able to read a book and know, with your heart and soul, what the author means, and yet, at the same time know that it’s something only another woman will understand. It’s sad and it makes you angry, but then again, it’s also good to know you’re not alone, and that other women also understand this. And especially – that you’re not making it up (a thing even I have heard, despite working with very nice men.) That’s why The Startup Wife is an absolute must-read! Here's the long review, if you're curious for more thoughts: https://avalinahsbooks.space/startup-... https://avalinahsbooks.space/startup-... I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion. Book Blog | Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    The StartUp Wife is a quirky, funny, deeply intelligent story of love, big dreams, starting up and feminist geekdom. The book tells the story of computer scientist Asha Ray, who after high school is working at a prominent Cambridge AI lab. Her life and career, however, changes when she attends the funeral of an old high school teacher back on Long Island and has a chance meeting with her high-school crush, Cyrus. The two begin a whirlwind romance and two months later they are married. Soon after The StartUp Wife is a quirky, funny, deeply intelligent story of love, big dreams, starting up and feminist geekdom. The book tells the story of computer scientist Asha Ray, who after high school is working at a prominent Cambridge AI lab. Her life and career, however, changes when she attends the funeral of an old high school teacher back on Long Island and has a chance meeting with her high-school crush, Cyrus. The two begin a whirlwind romance and two months later they are married. Soon after, the couple launch a social networking app with Cyrus' wealthy best friend Jules. While Asha is the brains behind the operation, Cyrus’ charismatic appeal throws him into the spotlight, and she begins to feel invisible in the boardroom of her own company. The titular start-up is We Are Infinite (WAI), a social networking app centred around faith and ritual. They also apply with WAI to join a tech incubator called Utopia, which is already home to other start-ups that are preparing for the end of the world. As the start-up takes off, the boundaries between work and life start to blur for Asha and Cyrus and their work/life ratio is completely out of sync. For a while, they had everything: they got to work together, they got to see each other all the time, they had this very intense sensual and romantic relationship and everything was operating at a very high volume. But will Cyrus and Asha's marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah? This is a captivating and absorbing novel with a gripping plot and award-winning author Tahmima Anam doesn't shy away from exploring faith and the future with a gimlet eye and a deft touch. Come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look at startup culture and modern partnership. The initial team behind WAI starts out being quite countercultural and, in a way, the story is about how they (especially Cyrus) end up being embodiments of the things that they were critiquing; essentially becoming what they once despised. It's a richly described and immersive story crafted with intelligence and deft humour that ostensibly asks the burning question: can technology, with all its limits and possibilities, disrupt love? Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    bookwormbullet

    Thank you so much to Scribner Books for sending me an early copy of The Startup Wife in exchange for an honest review! The Startup Wife really intrigued me when I first read a description of the novel because as someone who is familiar with the tech industry and is also Bengali, I was really interested to see Tahmima Anam’s exploration of what it means to be a woman of color in a male-dominated industry. The story follows Asha Ray, daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants and a brilliant coder. During Thank you so much to Scribner Books for sending me an early copy of The Startup Wife in exchange for an honest review! The Startup Wife really intrigued me when I first read a description of the novel because as someone who is familiar with the tech industry and is also Bengali, I was really interested to see Tahmima Anam’s exploration of what it means to be a woman of color in a male-dominated industry. The story follows Asha Ray, daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants and a brilliant coder. During graduate school, she’s reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. The two write an algorithm that creates personalized rituals to replace actual religious ones for various types of real-life traditions. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day, and Asha starts to question whether her marriage will survive the pressures of sudden fame. I think one thing that’s important to note before starting this novel is that this is not a HEA-type of romance. I’m usually wary of romance novels that feature a WOC as the main character that falls in love with a white man and is forced to let go of her culture and background, and change her entire personality/character to be with him. Thus, from the beginning of the novel, I was always hesitant about Cyrus and Asha’s relationship, even when Asha professed multiple times how in love she was with him. I’m glad that Tahmima Anam continued to put the focus of the story on Asha and her personal journey, rather than making Asha succumb to Cyrus’s needs, especially at the end of the novel. It was great to see her stand up for herself and call Cyrus out when he was, frankly, being an awful person. Regarding the tech industry-aspect of this novel, I found it interesting that this book took place in NYC with the presence of Silicon Valley looming in the background. I’m not 100% familiar with the tech industry in NYC specifically as much as I am familiar with it in Silicon Valley, but I think the startup culture portrayed in this novel, especially in the age of social media, was pretty accurate. Additionally, while I can’t comment on the Muslim rep in this book, I can say that the Bengali rep was pretty accurate. As mentioned, I’m glad that Asha did not ever separate herself from being Bengali and always stayed connected to her upbringing and identity throughout the novel. I am curious to see what other Muslim readers have to say about the Muslim rep in this book, especially since this book explores the intersection of faith and technology and WAI offers rituals that serve as a replacement for actual religious rituals. I’d recommend this book for those who are also women of color working in tech. While the storyline in the middle of the book became a little slow, I think the end of the book proved that Tahmima Anam stayed true to her promise of delivering a story that highlights the obstacles women of color face when starting a tech company.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ming

    When is a parody not a parody?  The real-world vibe, despite a wry, farcical tone, had me questioning whether this book is consciously making fun of folks (creators and consumers of tech) or simply depicting modern life. With tongue cheekily firm, this book has constructed a story that presents the 21st Century of software apps.  It's a funny and smart story.  But significantly, its so-called technology resonates with reality. These apps and how they are brought to market feel real and their absu When is a parody not a parody?  The real-world vibe, despite a wry, farcical tone, had me questioning whether this book is consciously making fun of folks (creators and consumers of tech) or simply depicting modern life. With tongue cheekily firm, this book has constructed a story that presents the 21st Century of software apps.  It's a funny and smart story.  But significantly, its so-called technology resonates with reality. These apps and how they are brought to market feel real and their absurdity toes solid ground.  The techie characters (main and peripheral) are very earnest...to the extent that what is ridiculous or fictional becomes plausible or necessary.  One example is a devout vegetarian who somehow engineers a tick whose bite will render its victim sick with the runs if meat is consumed.  There's also a restaurant that only serves pickled food...(this may be real--what do I know?). And someone creates a device that gives women thorough pleasure when her partner fails or tires. I've read Anam's 3 other books and I would readily read her future titles. She is a warm, smart and engaging storyteller. This book would pair nicely with New Waves. Many thanks to Scribner for this ARC. Some favorite quotes: Jules was an excellent host, in that he treated the house as if he, too, were a temporary inhabitant. Li Ann is just here to make everyone else look unkempt. He is obsessively focused on both the present and on the esoteric distance. I hated him on sight, mostly because he started talking to me in elaborate sports metaphors and also because my parents have always have told me to be skeptical of brown people who change their names to sound like white people. Jules, Cyrus, and I are at restaurant where everything is pickled. It's called Pikld. The drinks are called vinegar and taste like soda. The vegetables are called kraut and taste like vinegar. "How evil are these people?" "Just your average evil funds." He gives off a kind of hummingbird vibe, flapping wildly while appearing to stand perfectly still. "Oh, honey," she soothes. "I see a bruise forming on the left side of your face. Did you get hit by a swinging dick?" And then he's gone into the snow and the night, a trail of unsaid words following silently behind him like a clutch of shadows.

  18. 5 out of 5

    On the Same Page

    3.5 stars ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. When I read the synopsis and saw that the main character was a female developer, I knew I wanted to read this book. There's something fun in reading about your own profession when it's done well. Recognizable terms and situations that make you remember things you've encountered in your own career, nightmarish scenarios that make you grateful your job is at least better than this, and sometimes characters t 3.5 stars ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. When I read the synopsis and saw that the main character was a female developer, I knew I wanted to read this book. There's something fun in reading about your own profession when it's done well. Recognizable terms and situations that make you remember things you've encountered in your own career, nightmarish scenarios that make you grateful your job is at least better than this, and sometimes characters that remind you of old or current colleagues. The synopsis puts a lot of emphasis on Asha and Cyrus and their relationship, and there is a fair bit of focus on that, but I think it's a pretty even split between following their marriage and following the rise of WAI, the social media platform they built together. It's an interesting exploration of what it means to not have any separation between work and personal lives, and what the impact may be. The highs at WAI become good times in their marriage, and the lows have a direct impact on the relationship as well. But ultimately, that wasn't the most interesting part of the book to me. There's a lot of conversation about women in STEM and the challenges we face in a field that is still very much dominated by men, and Asha's journey is a prime example. Even though she is the lead developer and WAI would not exist without her, it is Cyrus, her white, male husband, who is put into the spotlight as CEO. Nobody talks about Asha's role at all. When she objects to what she sees as a bad, problematic step for the company to take, she gets sidelined by the men in the room. Her concerns aren't taken seriously, and her voice isn't heard. What she went through isn't fiction but a reality many women in STEM face every day. I felt genuine anger while reading those part because I felt them to my core. At its bones, this is a book about sexism and racism that slowly creeps up on you. It's a book that shows you a worst case scenario of what can happen when minorities aren't listened to, and men are the only ones making the decisions. It's an exploration of the impact social media has on our lives and how much power we give it, and how it can be abused. And while it definitely could have delved deeper into some of the topics it touches upon, I still enjoyed my time with it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liza

    Holy crap this book was so funny, clever, insightful, and GREAT. Tahmima Anam, I have so many questions for you and your amazing brain. Asha Ray develops a program based on her new husband’s innate ability to create profound, sacred-yet-secular rituals for any life occasion, without the messy-judgy-exclusivity of religion. Asha’s program asks a few questions and delivers an outline for a new ritual. It could be a wedding ceremony inspired by The Odyssey, or an Opening of the Mouth funeral service Holy crap this book was so funny, clever, insightful, and GREAT. Tahmima Anam, I have so many questions for you and your amazing brain. Asha Ray develops a program based on her new husband’s innate ability to create profound, sacred-yet-secular rituals for any life occasion, without the messy-judgy-exclusivity of religion. Asha’s program asks a few questions and delivers an outline for a new ritual. It could be a wedding ceremony inspired by The Odyssey, or an Opening of the Mouth funeral service derived from the arcane lore of Game of Thrones and The Great British Baking Show. It could be a baptism for your cat. Asha, Cyrus, and their best friend Jules cultivate a new format of technology, one that fights against the inherent “evils” of tech and social media, one that is not only good for society but might have the power to save humanity after the apocalypse, whenever that may be. But what happens when your invention goes beyond viral and begins to evolve into something more than a program? What happens when the world thinks your husband is the new messiah? I want to play with this program SO BADLY. I Googled it just to make sure it wasn’t secretly in existence in some form (it’s not). Anyway, I adore Asha. She’s wildly smart, funny, passionate, and imperfect. Following her as she navigates the tech industry as a woman of color in a dominantly white male world felt so real. I laughed and sighed alongside her repeatedly. In addition to being the propulsion behind the story, Asha reveals the thousand subtle cuts women give themselves as they make room for others and how those actions can affect those around them. Asha’s also the first protagonist I’ve read to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. I have no interest in tech but I absolutely LOVED this book! It was so much fun and such a great catalyst for speculation about society, the future, and, yes, technology. The end was shocking and galvanizing, but I’ll say no more. Just add The Startup Wife to your TBR, out in the US on July 13th.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    firstly, a huge thank you to canongate and the author for having me as part of the readalong for this very poignant novel. I was quite apprehensive about starting this, as I am definitely a books and words millennial and not an entrepreneurial / tech-savvy millennial and feared some of this may have flew over my head. although anam’s prose is certainly indicative of the environment and intricacies involved in a start-up cooperative, her novel documents a lot of relatable social subjects and mora firstly, a huge thank you to canongate and the author for having me as part of the readalong for this very poignant novel. I was quite apprehensive about starting this, as I am definitely a books and words millennial and not an entrepreneurial / tech-savvy millennial and feared some of this may have flew over my head. although anam’s prose is certainly indicative of the environment and intricacies involved in a start-up cooperative, her novel documents a lot of relatable social subjects and moral discussions centring around an unconventional relationship. after encountering an old school crush, asha’s relationship with the spiritual, charismatic ritualist cyrus moves at lightning speed. her apt for numeracy and coding alongside her new husband’s inquisitive nature and natural capabilities as a people-pleaser lead them to combine the two. accompanied by their friend jules, the three spearhead WAI, an app that provides moral support to those in need of guidance without religious intervention. the app’s followers quickly begin to form a cult-like fascination with the enigmatic Cyrus, who becomes the face of the company. as asha finds herself relegated to the sidelines in board meetings, business-decisions and ultimately her own marriage, she questions whether or not love truly can conquer all. anam’s fascinating insight into contemporary technology, social media and our own somewhat ambiguous sense of morality is portrayed masterfully through the creation of a digital world within the realms of the novel. with a heavy display of humour and frivolity, she makes a somewhat frightening concept seem almost palatable, before quickly exposing the realities of blurring the lines between technology and the meaning of life. every character is so well-written and brought to life, it was easy to think of similar scenarios and people I’ve encountered personally. I particularly loved watching asha grow from a passive figure into an active leader who was not afraid to stand up for herself and ensure she received the recognition she deserved.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kira

    4.5 stars In a New York with futuristic undertones, the groundbreaking social network WAI is born within the four walls of Utopia, a co-working space committed to preparing for the world’s inevitable apocalypse. Asha, Jules, and Cyrus band together by using Asha’s brains, Jules’ charm and Cyrus’ knowledge to create a platform that allows people without religion to practice a form of faith and build up a community with people harbouring similar interests and beliefs. But as WAI’s success continues 4.5 stars In a New York with futuristic undertones, the groundbreaking social network WAI is born within the four walls of Utopia, a co-working space committed to preparing for the world’s inevitable apocalypse. Asha, Jules, and Cyrus band together by using Asha’s brains, Jules’ charm and Cyrus’ knowledge to create a platform that allows people without religion to practice a form of faith and build up a community with people harbouring similar interests and beliefs. But as WAI’s success continues to grow, and Cyrus becomes deluded with his newfound power and fame, Asha begins to question the motives and consequences of it. This book had an impressive tech narrative and was cleverly written with dazzling and clear language and witty dialogue. I loved the futuristic aspect of this book and thought that the apps and products created in Utopia were very creative (such as Obit.ly, a system that deals with a person’s online presence after their death). It also managed to tackle deeper issues whilst still feeling like a relatively upbeat and enjoyable read; such as the sexism overtly present in entrepreneurism and the male-centric tech world in particular; the inherent and systemic racism; the pressure on an immigrant’s child to succeed; and the callous side of social networking that can lead to catastrophic consequences... FULL REVIEW here: https://kirareadsandwrites.wordpress....

  22. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    It's a summer of disappointments. I recently learned that Jhumpa Lahiri is giving up on books about India and the immigrant experience and only writing in Italian. I don't think I could handle it if Tahmina Anam is abandoning her deeply moving and important books about Bangladesh to write only tech-fluff like 'The Startup Wife'. Please, somebody who reads the literary press more than me, please reassure me that it isn't so. It can't be easy when your first three books are so outstanding that you' It's a summer of disappointments. I recently learned that Jhumpa Lahiri is giving up on books about India and the immigrant experience and only writing in Italian. I don't think I could handle it if Tahmina Anam is abandoning her deeply moving and important books about Bangladesh to write only tech-fluff like 'The Startup Wife'. Please, somebody who reads the literary press more than me, please reassure me that it isn't so. It can't be easy when your first three books are so outstanding that you've kind of painted yourself into a genre corner and are eager to burst out of it and do something different. 'The Startup Wife' is definitely a total change of direction for Tahmima Anam, although it shares the characteristic of strong female characters, even if Asha does allow herself to be seriously undermined and undervalued for most of the book. When Asha meets the guy she had a crush on at high school, they're soon in love and bursting with ideas for how to change the world. Cyrus - anybody else spot the inevitability that if you call a character Cyrus, he'll have to be 'the Great' sooner or later - is a mystic, a shaman, a man of all religions and none, a philosopher and a man who carries the responsibility of the world on his handsome shoulders. Asha is a genius programmer who wants to make Artificial Intelligence more 'human'. Together - and with the help of Cyrus's friend Jules - they set up a business to help people with no religion, multiple religions, and those who are generally confused, to create new rituals for life's landmark occasions. From baptizing your cat to marrying in ceremonies that combine diverse elements of ancient and modern culture, their new website WAI (pronounced WHY) has the answer for everybody seeking their perfect ritual. Soon it's creating micro (or macro) communities of people who think alike and threatening the more established social media platforms. Business is booming, they need to think about 'dirty' things like monetisation, and look for spin-off ideas to build the business. Cyrus becomes 'Great', Asha gets lost in her code. Typical story; girl meets boy, girl has fab idea, boy takes all the credit and adulation and girl gets sidelined. There are bits of this book that I found very inspiring. There are other bits I just found a bit silly. People invested in this idea despite the founders being determined to never charge for their services and then as the costs rocket, there are tough decisions to be made. Cyrus's cult of personality is a clear nod to nutjob tech founders and their determination that the earth isn't big enough so next step, space! And Asha is every woman who 'let' her man ride roughshod over her ideas in favour of a harmonious life. The book is filled with crazy ideas that seem less crazy every month. An app to record sexual consent. A 'vape' that delivers extra-pure oxygen. The crazy Utopians are coming up with daft ideas every week. This book is 'of its time'. It will date REALLY quickly. It's tied to much to the here and now and in a year's time when the pandemic is over (or as close to over as we can hope for), when new plant-based milk based beverages evolve and systems for handling your post-life social media inevitably evolve, this will be as dated as those fin de siecle novels written entirely in email exchanges (edgy for a year or two, now as fashionable as the dodo). It was fun while it lasted. If I'm honest, the book carried too much weight of expectations from me and I really do hope it's just a temporary diversion before Anam goes back to writing what she writes best. Please don't disappoint me again. I said on my review of Lahiri's 'Whereabouts' that I felt like the guy in the audience who shouted "Judas" at Bob Dylan for going electric. Same thing happened here.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    2.5/ 5 stars This book is general fiction with a bit of science fiction. It is set in the near future (or maybe an alternate reality?). Best friends Asha, Jules and Cyrus build a social media app that replaces religious rituals. The narrator is Asha, a brilliant female coder (1st person POV). The three decide to work at the exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The premise of this book is super unique. The book has things that we recognize like social media. But adds all kinds of inventions that do 2.5/ 5 stars This book is general fiction with a bit of science fiction. It is set in the near future (or maybe an alternate reality?). Best friends Asha, Jules and Cyrus build a social media app that replaces religious rituals. The narrator is Asha, a brilliant female coder (1st person POV). The three decide to work at the exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The premise of this book is super unique. The book has things that we recognize like social media. But adds all kinds of inventions that do not exist here. There were parts of this book that I found very intriguing. I liked the heroine. I liked the idea of the app that they were working on. But I didn't love the backstory at the beginning. And the last chapter was really different from the rest of the book. Overall the book was just okay for me. Thanks to netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for allowing me to read this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    jocelyn • shesalreadybooked

    Wow. RTC when I’ve collected my thoughts

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ilyssa Wesche

    I was completely blown away by this book. First, I thought the underlying subject matter was so interesting, and something I think about all the time: why does religion have to be the underpining of so many of our rituals? What about atheists who want meaningful ritual that isn't twee? The bit about the man who watched Little House on the Prairie and wanted to pray made me laugh out loud in recognition. This started me down a rabbit hole of Googling non-religious rituals. Second, Utopia and all o I was completely blown away by this book. First, I thought the underlying subject matter was so interesting, and something I think about all the time: why does religion have to be the underpining of so many of our rituals? What about atheists who want meaningful ritual that isn't twee? The bit about the man who watched Little House on the Prairie and wanted to pray made me laugh out loud in recognition. This started me down a rabbit hole of Googling non-religious rituals. Second, Utopia and all of the characters were funny and satirical without being overly so - still believable and sympathetic even in their undeniable hipster-ness. I especially loved Destiny. The supporting cast of characters in this book are so well-fleshed-out: Asha's family, Jude, their Utopia coworkers... Third, the relationship between Asha and Cyrus (is there a better name than Cyrus Jones? Maybe Isaiah Quintabe) is so good to watch unfold, as she knowingly though perhaps unwittingly transfers the balance of power in their marriage and their work over to him, even though she is equally responsible for the operation. When she finally realizes what she's done, its such an oh-yeah moment, but I still felt for Cyrus because his point was also valid. In an early interview I read, Ms. Anam referred to this as a "rom-com" so that's what I went into it expecting. But it is first of all not even close to a rom-com in any sense of the word, but it is so smart and funny and it made me think without bringing me down.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Owens

    I DNFed this at 25%, I could not get into the storyline or the characters. This could be a great book I just don’t think it’s right for me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate Vane

    Asha Ray has a bad time in high school – she’s clever but she doesn’t fit in socially, and feels set apart by her Bangladeshi background. She also has a crush on the poised and unconventional Cyrus, until he disappears suddenly one day. Years later, she has moved on. She has found her tribe at university, made friends, and her expertise in IT has earned her a place on a prestigious postgraduate programme. She feels secure with the support of her liberal, spiky parents and sister. Then Cyrus comes Asha Ray has a bad time in high school – she’s clever but she doesn’t fit in socially, and feels set apart by her Bangladeshi background. She also has a crush on the poised and unconventional Cyrus, until he disappears suddenly one day. Years later, she has moved on. She has found her tribe at university, made friends, and her expertise in IT has earned her a place on a prestigious postgraduate programme. She feels secure with the support of her liberal, spiky parents and sister. Then Cyrus comes back into her life. She is bowled over by his looks, his curiosity and his fascination with the world’s religions. He is convinced he can give people connection and ritual that fits with their contemporary, secular lifestyle. Along with his best friend, Jules, a privileged but unhappy guy who has already built one startup, they decide to start a website using Asha’s coding skills, Cyrus’s vision and Jules marketing smarts. But success leads to pressure in Asha’s marriage, as Cyrus’s charisma overshadows her hard work. The Startup Wife is a book about the ethical implications of tech in the same way that Dallas is a drama about oil. Whether you think that’s a good or a bad thing depends on where your interests lie. If you’re looking for a contemporary story about a nerdy, unconfident woman negotiating marriage, family and friendships, with some nice zeitgeisty references, then you’ll probably enjoy this. There is some fun and perceptive skewering of tech bros, venture capitalists and the eccentric people who are determined to upend every assumption and norm but in doing so, can’t help establishing new conventions of their own. The female entrepreneurs provide an interesting counterpoint, with their different focuses and the way they negotiate an overwhelmingly male world. However, I didn’t find the frenzy around Asha and Cyrus’s business convincing. The suggestion is that she will use her background in researching empathy to create an artificial intelligence that could understand your deepest emotional and spiritual needs. What they have instead is a fairly standard recommendation engine – you answer a few questions and it pulls together a ritual based on your answers. I was also unconvinced that people in large numbers would become devoted to the site and stick around to form groups. If you want a cool naming ceremony for your baby, once the naming’s done wouldn’t you move on to the next thing (and post the pictures to your existing networks rather than engaging in a new one)? We see the way Cyrus is able to charm and manipulate the people who are close to him, and how their behaviour mirrors that of the site’s fans, although I’m still not sure what was so compelling about him to so many people. The people who fall under his spell via the site are largely in the background of the novel so we don’t get to know what makes them susceptible. The Startup Wife is an enjoyable enough novel but it feels like it didn’t deliver on its original promise of examining why people are drawn to ritual in a secular world and how tech can both fulfil and exploit human needs. * I received a copy of The Startup Wife from the publisher via Netgalley.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Darryl

    Asha Ray is a classic success story, the daughter of Bengali immigrants who own and operate three pharmacies in the New York City Borough of Queens. She herself is in a highly desirable PhD program at MIT, where she is under the tutelage of a brilliant professor while she works on her Empathy Module, in which she proposes to enable Artificial Intelligence with the capability of understanding and caring about humans, in order to make the machines we create better versions of ourselves. During a fu Asha Ray is a classic success story, the daughter of Bengali immigrants who own and operate three pharmacies in the New York City Borough of Queens. She herself is in a highly desirable PhD program at MIT, where she is under the tutelage of a brilliant professor while she works on her Empathy Module, in which she proposes to enable Artificial Intelligence with the capability of understanding and caring about humans, in order to make the machines we create better versions of ourselves. During a funeral she sees Cyrus Jones, her old high school crush, who is leading the memorial service for their beloved English teacher. He was an odd but attractive boy with long blond hair who dropped out of high school, but now he has become an even more attractive man who leads rituals and has gained an immense amount of wisdom and knowledge in the years since 11th grade. They are immediately attracted to each other, and within months they are married and living happily together in Cambridge in the home of Cyrus's best friend Jules. Asha decides to combine Cyrus's knowledge and experience with her Empathy Module to create a platform that will allow non-religious users to develop a personal faith and belief system based on the things that they value most. As the module is being beta tested they receive an interview request from Utopia, an organization that serves as an incubator for startup tech companies located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and after Asha, Cyrus and Jules meet the interview committee they are accepted into the Utopia fold. They work tirelessly on the platform, which they name WAI (We Are Infinite, pronounced "why"), and after it is launched it almost immediately attracts hundreds of thousands of users, which quickly multiplies into the millions. The alluring and appealing Cyrus becomes the face of WAI and he quickly adopts a cult-like following of members who view him as a modern day messiah. WAI expands at a dizzying pace, the team grows exponentially and increasingly out of control, and Asha and Cyrus's intertwined marriage and work relationship is battered and threatened by the resultant stress and by Cyrus's vision of what WAI should become, as Asha struggles to support her husband as she sees her role in the module she created become increasingly marginalized in a male dominated industry. The Startup Wife is a smart, sexy and wickedly humorous look into the startup tech world that has become increasingly influential in the era of social media, from the view of a talented and insightful author whose husband is the CEO of ROLI, a music tech company, where she serves on the Board of Directors. This novel is a departure from Anam's superb Bangladesh Trilogy, but it is no less entertaining or well written, and as a novel for our times, and an indictment of the pervasive sexism that plagues the tech industry, it deserves to be widely read. Tahmima Anam recently appeared on a 5x15 talk about The Startup Wife, which I found to be worthwhile and enlightening; you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVvJp....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    (No spoilers) I received this galley through Scribner on NetGalley in exchange for a review. Quick synopsis: The Startup Wife follows Asha Ray, a smart, driven woman in STEM. She is working on how to make Artificial Intelligence more empathetic when she reunites with her crush from high school, Cyrus Jones, and his friend Jules. Cyrus is charismatic and spiritual, curating rituals such as weddings and funerals perfectly tailored to the people involved. As Asha and Cyrus fall in love, Asha gets an (No spoilers) I received this galley through Scribner on NetGalley in exchange for a review. Quick synopsis: The Startup Wife follows Asha Ray, a smart, driven woman in STEM. She is working on how to make Artificial Intelligence more empathetic when she reunites with her crush from high school, Cyrus Jones, and his friend Jules. Cyrus is charismatic and spiritual, curating rituals such as weddings and funerals perfectly tailored to the people involved. As Asha and Cyrus fall in love, Asha gets an idea for a whole new type of social media. The three characters collectively build a platform called WAI from the ground up. WAI analyzes what matters most to you based on your likes and personality traits, and spits out a ritual you request. It also connects you to a community of people who feel the same way you do. Asha codes the platform, Jules does the business, and Cyrus is the face of the company. As the platform grows exponentially, Asha experiences the consequences of mixing business with pleasure. Now, for my takes on the book: This book really pulled me in and kept things interesting from the get go. Asha is extremely likable & I could really understand her thinking behind most decisions she made. The dialogue was extremely realistic, I felt like I was listening to friends of mine have conversations, which is rare for me as I can easily be put off by cheesy dialogue. Watching Cyrus’ slow slip from being a reluctant participant in WAI, to being depicted as an “Internet Messiah” and absolutely eating it up was like watching a train wreck in slow motion, that Anam crafted beautifully. This book tackled topics like AI, coding, and business, topics that I am less than familiar with, in a way that was interesting and easily understood. The reason I gave this book a 4 instead of a 5 is that sometimes I felt as though I was being told information about the characters instead of being shown. For example, towards the middle of the book Asha is going back and forth about how she feels about who Cyrus is becoming as WAI picks up steam, and what you see is Asha’s thoughts, not what Cyrus is doing to prompt them. I also felt like I wasn’t adequately introduced to some secondary characters in the Utopia, so I was sometimes confusing people. This book seemed all at once topical (even touching on the rise of COVID-19 towards the end of the book) & futuristic. The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam is definitely a book I would re-read one day and am sure I would catch nitty gritty details a second time around, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with. This book would be perfect for fans of the show Black Mirror.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I was completely captivated by The Startup Wife from almost the very first page and loved the time I spent with Asha Ray through reading this novel. I found that the startup concept itself really spoke to me so personally wanting the idea to be true was a strong part of my enthusiasm for the book. However, I could also believe strongly in the characters and their relationships to each other. Having worked, albeit briefly, within an IT environ See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I was completely captivated by The Startup Wife from almost the very first page and loved the time I spent with Asha Ray through reading this novel. I found that the startup concept itself really spoke to me so personally wanting the idea to be true was a strong part of my enthusiasm for the book. However, I could also believe strongly in the characters and their relationships to each other. Having worked, albeit briefly, within an IT environment myself, I could recognise people's motivations and I was also reminded of reading 7 Unicorn Drive by Dani Polajnar, a memoir of a real-life unicorn startup. Tahmima Anam has a lot to say about the mixing of marriage with business, especially how the societal and cultural expectations we bring into relationships with us can determine our behaviours without us being fully aware of their influence. There is also a thought-provoking feminist thread woven through The Startup Wife which frequently had me cheering on certain characters and furious with others! I love novels which combine entertaining, gripping storytelling with social commentary and that sums up The Startup Wife to a T. For example, at one point Anam lays out the ridiculousness of things like an investor firm proudly announcing their intent to bring businesses run by POC women up to 5% of their portfolio - as though the token gesture of allocating POC women a 1/20th share should be applauded. Yet I never felt as though the novel preached. Instead I could empathise with Asha's blithe acceptance of situations which, to a reader's eyes, were patently wrong and I understood what led her to engineer her own invisibility, even while she was frustrated by the resulting lack of recognition. I am delighted to have discovered Tahmima Anam's writing, thanks to Canongate and NetGalley. I am keen both to see what story she next explores and to catch up with her back catalogue of work.

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