Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran | Review

This review was originally published on Books + Publishing.

Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens immerses the reader in the microcosm of the Cinnamon Gardens Nursing Home. Against the backdrop of the heartbreaking trauma of the Sri Lankan Civil War, the novel explores how the family behind Cinnamon Gardens came to be in Sydney and how they’ve made a home for all in the community. 

Through five different perspectives and an ensemble of supporting characters, Shankari Chandran expertly weaves in multiple issues of intersectionality as tensions grow in the fictional suburb of Westgrove. With the breakdown of a friend of the family’s marriage, we follow a detailed exploration of white male fragility and how dangerous it can be when people in power present themselves as victims of oppression, as well as what happens when extremists feel vindicated by mainstream media support for their anti-immigrant views. Chai Time warns against complacency in power vacuums, where those harmed the most are those with the least power. Snuck in with this is a subplot involving the owner of Cinnamon Gardens’ writing career, in which she finds success only by catering to white audiences. 

Quiet but firm in its messaging and condemnations, Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens filled this reviewer’s heart with both hope and rage at witnessing history repeat itself, while somehow preserving optimism about how communities can be rebuilt. This novel will be loved by readers of The Other Black Girl and The Reading List with its exploration of the power of community and commentary on white fragility, as well as fans of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.

Review by Marina Sano.

Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran | Review

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