Posted in Reviews

Review: The Karma Map by Nisha Sharma

The Karma Map by Nisha Sharma

Recommended: sure
For characters with a lot of self-discovery and growth, for strong social and political debates within it, for characters who deeply embrace their faith (in ways, at times), for a tagalong to what a holy pilgrimage through India might look and feel like


Born and raised in the US, Tara Bajaj hides her family secrets. With beautiful clothes, a popular social media presence, and a spot on the Rutgers High Bollywood dance team, she does it well—until her carefully cultivated image shatters. Shut out by friends and with her future in flux, Tara accepts a guide position for a youth group’s temple tour through North India. Rediscovering the heart of her ancestry is as good a place as any to start over.

Silas D’Souza-Gupta is an aspiring photojournalist retracing the journey his two mothers took when they fell in love. The last thing he expects on this road trip through his roots is a girl with a history of her own. As Tara and Silas embark on remote pilgrimage sites from Punjab through the Himalayas, they discover what it means to be a child in the Indian diaspora, the significance of karma, and the healing power of love.


As is my usual, what initially drew me to this book was the journey through India. I’ve noticed I’m reading a lot of books set in India lately, so I guess I just need to add it to my travel list, but for now this book showed me a lot of places and sides of it I’ve never seen before (via books). From the more mundane, like McDonalds menus that differ from those in the United States, to the more limited and unique, like sacred caves that require hours long queuing up a mountain, this book truly was a physical journey for the characters that I tagged along for.

Perhaps because travel was a focus for them, the small details and daily moments in their surroundings got a lot of attention and highlighting than some other books that are more fiction format with daily lives of characters who live in India. The descriptions were wonderful, and conveyed by the characters so authentically that I felt like I was a part of it. And of course, there’s such a huge range of environments in India that it was sweltering hot and surprisingly chilly and packed with people and joyfully lonesome and god I could keep going but this sentence and list is too long already.

Faith is a central tenet of this story as the characters are travelling to various religious sites in India, though they have a range of how much each person feels and experiences their faith. Some feel alienated since they were forced to come by parents, or because part of who they are is condemned by their very religion, but others are wholeheartedly devoted even if they don’t want to show or admit it too loudly. Getting a chance to “see” a faithful person interacting with some of the holiest sites of their faith was something I felt deep in my heart. Though that’s not something I share being mildly spiritual at best, it was wonderful to see the connection and love they felt in some of those places.

There were some issues that pushed along the story as well besides the physical journey. Social media addiction, authenticity, environmentalism, forgiveness, and human rights in general all came along for the ride. While that list sounds like way too much to be packed into one story, they all had a relatively light touch. It was enough to have meaningful conversations about them, but not so much that they were unresolved at the end.

In particular, there’s a conversation between the two main characters where one calls the other out for pushing a harmful and incomplete social narrative that I really appreciated because it’s very rare in a romance novel, especially a young adult one, that characters challenge each other openly about truly important world issues in such a coherent way. That conversation has stuck with me long after finishing this book.

And, yeah, okay, it’s also a romance story. But there’s so much more to it that it felt more like a piece of the story rather than the main tenet, you know? There’s also time given to the characters learning about themselves, their faith, their families, their roots, their goals… romance was just a part of the story rather than THE story, which made this a lot more nuanced of a read.


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

4 thoughts on “Review: The Karma Map by Nisha Sharma

  1. Awesome review, Jennifer! This is on my Kindle and I honestly picked it up for the cover + the premise of the journey/pilgrimage through India but it sounds like this does a good job of tackling tougher or more serious topics alongside any romance! Can’t wait to pick it up 🙂


  2. Thanks for the review! I don’t normally read travel-focused books, but maybe I need to start. It certainly sounds like a fascinating way to experience another culture second-hand! (And I’m with you on wanting to visit India someday. It seems like such a culturally rich place.)


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