peanut butter and naan book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Strap on your seat belt and hold on to your hat as author Jennifer Hillman-Magnuson invites you to travel along with her average American family to India in her book, Peanut Butter and Naan. But first, imagine having five kids, and living a rather middle class existence. Got it. Now your husband’s job moves him across the country into a into a very upscale development around the corner from famous people like Dolly Parton and others. It’s a bit of a culture shock, but you adjust and enjoy the indulgences of this new life. Just as things are feeling normal though, your husband’s job needs him to go to India for an undetermined number of months, and you decide to take all five kids out of school and join him on the other side of the world for an adventure. Sound fun? This is exactly what happens for Jennifer and her family.

Using bucket loads of wit and sarcasm, her writing style welcomes the reader to feel like they actually took part in this grand undertaking. She writes like your best friend might talk. She doesn’t guard her language, so if you are easily offended, this may not be for you. But if you enjoy candid conversation mixed with humorous stories that wrestles with the nuances of life, you will enjoy the ride.

One of her big anxieties traveling with five children around the world revolved around food. Anyone with kids knows that sometimes they can have fits over unfamiliar dishes, and she was concerned about how her children would take to Indian cuisine. So, in their very limited number of crates, Jennifer packed jars after jar of peanut butter to assure that there would always be something familiar to eat. As it turns out, most of those fears were unfounded as they came to enjoy many amazing dishes which often included the Indian bread naan. But as she shares her fears and her desperate packing strategies, I think other moms will find themselves identifying with the concerns she felt.

As she writes, there is a constant weaving and comparison of typical U.S. experiences when compared to India. From driving habits, city infrastructure and weddings to grocery shopping, cleaning and everything in between, her descriptions are vivid and lively. Near the end of her story she writes, “If you had asked me a year ago if I would be having the time of my life on a dirty, unpaved street, playing a ball game with people I don’t know in a run-down urban neighborhood, I can’t imagine how confused I would have been. Now it seems like the most logical and beautiful thing in the world.” Their experience there led to more than a simple travel book–it is really a humorous and engaging memoir of transformation.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by BookSparksPR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.