The Accidental Apprentice Review
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In 2008, director Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire enchanted audiences, critics, and award voters alike—eventually taking home eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The novel that inspired the film, Q & A, was written by author and diplomat Vikas Swarup, who continues to explore Indian culture in his latest release, The Accidental Apprentice.

The story follows 23-year-old electronics salesgirl Sapna Sinha on an unbelievable journey. While visiting a temple on her lunch break, she meets an old man who offers to name her the new CEO of his massive corporation if she can pass seven real-life tests. Though she’s suspicious of the man and his motivation, she finds that his story checks out—and as the sole breadwinner in her family, she’s desperately in need of the money that comes with his offer. Once she agrees to the terms, though, she finds herself battling greed, corruption, and long-held traditions while unwittingly passing one challenging test after another.

With The Accidental Apprentice, Swarup once again takes readers on an intriguing tour of the big cities and small villages of India, examining a variety of cultural issues as the story unfolds. Throughout her tale, Sapna faces all kinds of corruption and abuse. She’s invited to witness the arranged marriage of a girl whose true love was sent away from his home under threat of death. She helps a journalist friend expose everything from child labor to medical fraud to dishonest authorities. She even saves a life or two. And, in the process, she demonstrates both the best and worst of her country.

Swarup writes in a way that brings the story and its setting to life, describing everything from characters to tightly-packed communities in vivid detail. Each page is alive with the sights and sounds of Sapna’s surroundings, and each new chapter of the adventure illustrates another aspect of India’s culture.

The novel’s greatest problem, then, is that it requires more than just a slight suspension of disbelief. Though the set-up is interesting, the series of challenges seems completely far-fetched—and Sapna’s approach to each one seems too relaxed. She takes each new test in stride, acting as if she deals with self-centered celebrities, crooked politicians, and deadly traditions on a regular basis. While her story may be fascinating, the challenges are much too grand and too frequent for an average person to endure—and the way in which Sapna handles each one with relative ease makes her seem too good to be true.

While some parts of the story may be hard to believe, though, The Accidental Apprentice is still a fascinating tale of rivalry, revenge, and the Indian culture. And the suspense, surprises, and detailed settings alone are sure to keep readers engaged.

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