For all the SATC fans out there, who've religiously binged seasons and episodes night-on-night, 'One Night Only' by Saumyaa Vohra took me back to that exact same feeling of being in the loving, amusing, and (sometimes) snarky and delightfully bitchy company of your girl best friends.
While I was pretty much partnered up when I read the book a month ago, I recently broke up and Saumyaa's words hit me harder than before. Complex, comforting, unabashedly bold, and packed with the quirkiest quips, One Night Only' was my official hot girl summer read, and it was every bit worth it!
The story revolves around the meticulously intertwined routines of four best friends – Rubani, Natasha, Faiza, and Saira. You know how while watching a film, show, or reading a book with multiple characters, you tend to identify with one?
"Oh, I'm a Samantha", "Oof, classic Kabir", and the cycle of relatability continues. Well, Saumyaa nails her characterization game with her impeccable writing that flawlessly brings all these four characters together in harmony.
And, I couldn't help myself but relate a little bit to everyone! Whether it's Natasha's endearing hugs, Faiza's brutal sarcasm, Saira's real talk, or Rubani's zest for life, it's almost like a movie playing out in my head as I soak in the words, one chapter at a time.
For those of you who don’t know the talent powerhouse, Saumyaa Vohra, don’t forget to check out her episode for Season 1 of our video series In My Skin, where she gets up, close and personal about her first love–writing:
What REALLY works well…
Before I take you on an elaborate tour, let’s take a moment to appreciate the ingenious storytelling and how Saumyaa manages to bewitchingly weave her words. Right from the start, she introduces her characters, the setting, and their idiosyncrasies with such conviction, that it almost transports you to that restaurant or bedroom or the beach (spoiler alert!).
To take you through the crux of the plot, a tumultuous end to a long relationship brings a heartbroken Rubani to her knees when her three girlfriends Natasha, Saira, and Faiza pop up the idea of going on that Goa trip they’ve been sitting on for ages. One thing leads to another, and from the beginning of chapter three, their Goa shenanigans commence.
The city of endless possibilities changes the trajectory of the four women. Natasha has a mysterious midnight encounter, and Saira’s path crosses with a man who makes her question her stance on being in a committed, monogamous relationship. Faiza comes face-to-face with the realization that she’s still hung up on her ex-partner and Rubani meets her type in a woman.
Sounds every bit of an adventure, doesn’t it? And all of this, just so they could get Rubani out of her shell, and have that perfect one-night stand!
Also Read: Of Love, Lust, and the Layers In-Between
From unpacking everyday mansplaining and misogyny to exploring sexuality, pleasure, desire, and relationships (toxic and healthy), the book subtly plugs in these issues as the character facing them head-on, prioritizing their actual (not-so-perfect) thoughts and feelings, thereby humanizing them.
There’s this description of Rubani’s background, and how she comes from a wealthy, warm, and welcoming Punjabi family, the kind you probably won’t be able to imagine in real life but know that they exist.
Saumyaa wrote about Rubani’s sexuality, “She hadn’t ever felt like ‘coming out’ to her parents because it seemed like such a strange announcement to have to make. Straight people didn’t have to declare it with such fanfare, did they?”
This line took me back to when I tried to come out to my mom and how awkward that conversation felt, and kept cursing heteronormativity in my head.
The best part about the book was how raw, real, and convincing the interactions and dynamics were between and among the characters.
If I’ve learned anything from my own experience with my best friends, even though we hold great affection and a safe space for each other, every now and then, we might find ourselves picking on our own and each other’s insecurities, arguing over petty squabbles, mostly coming from a place of protectiveness and love.
You know from the beginning how Natasha and Faiza are inseparable and how Rubani always wondered why. How Saira portrays herself as a free bird who’ll not let any man (or, elements of patriarchy) bring her down, but at the same time, subconsciously craves intimacy and fears the abandonment bit. Too relatable, right?
What COULD have been better…
In hindsight, I personally feel that the book speaks to a particular audience. The sense of privilege is very clear and well-established.
Even though I could relate to the emotions, the humor, the breakups, and the hookups, I knew it was all too good to be true or happen to anyone around me. The lavish restaurants, impromptu Goa trips, bougie staycations, and high-paying jobs – feel a little too hard to envision in real life.
Additionally, I had a discussion with a friend of mine who also read the book, about how it reminds her a lot of the way Anuja Chauhan (the celebrated Indian author) writes her books, ready to be made into an OTT-adaptation.
I don’t think it takes away anything from the book, except for the fact that you feel the commercial polish all too well.
It’s a fun, lighthearted read that has every intention of making you flip the page, but the book could have done a better job at portraying and examining the societal issues it tries to raise such as the stigma around motherhood, casual relationships, queer love, etc.
Note for the Readers
I remember a sit-down with Saumyaa when we were shooting our 'In My Skin Video Series' back in 2022, and she immediately appreciated my outfit and asked me about the shoot and the people who’ve been a part of it so far, I still hold onto something she said to me back then:
"I think it's important to have a space like the one you are creating with That Sassy Thing, and I hope someday I can do the same with my work." (So, here's cheering you on Saumyaa!) And, if you're reading this and are I've piqued your curiosity, don't forget to grab this read, or pass it along to your favourite person.
I assure you, it will comfort you, astonish you, warm you and inspire you to eat, pray and love your way through life sometimes. Because, in Saumyaa's words, "Sometimes all it takes for your life to change is…One Night Only."
Juicy Reads by That Sassy Thing is an initiative where we will review books that align with our vision of making the world a safer, more pleasurable space.
We'll review one book each month and as we grow, we'll have lots more coming your way!
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