book review: keya das’s second act by sopan deb


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


physical book + audio book

Page Count:



literary fiction

Thank you Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book!


A poignant, heartwarming, and charmingly funny debut novel about how a discovered box in the attic leads one Bengali American family down a path toward understanding the importance of family, even when splintered.

Shantanu Das is living in the shadows of his past. In his fifties, he finds himself isolated from his traditional Bengali community after a devastating divorce from his wife, Chaitali; he hasn’t spoken to his eldest daughter Mitali in months; and most painfully, he lives each day with the regret that he didn’t accept his teenaged daughter Keya after she came out as gay. As the anniversary of Keya’s death approaches, Shantanu wakes up one morning utterly alone in his suburban New Jersey home and realizes it’s finally time to move on.

This is when Shantanu discovers a tucked-away box in the attic that could change everything. He calls Mitali and pleads with her to come home. She does so out of pity, not realizing that her life is about to shift.

Inside the box is an unfinished manuscript that Keya and her girlfriend were writing. It’s a surprising discovery that brings Keya to life briefly. But Neesh Desai, a new love interest for Mitali with regrets of his own, comes up with a wild idea, one that would give Keya more permanence: what if they are to stage the play? It could be an homage to Keya’s memory, and a way to make amends. But first, the Dases need to convince Pamela Moore, Keya’s girlfriend, to give her blessing. And they have to overcome ghosts from the past they haven’t met yet.

A story of redemption and righting the wrongs of the past, Keya Das’s Second Act is a warmly drawn homage to family, creativity, and second chances. Set in the vibrant world of Bengalis in the New Jersey suburbs, this debut novel is both poignant and, at times, a surprising hilarious testament to the unexpected ways we build family and find love, old and new.


trigger warnings.

  • grief
  • homophobia
  • car accident
  • child death
  • drug use
  • racism


(spoilers ahead!)

the characters.

the characters were definitely the most compelling part of this book for me overall. the book was written in multiple perspectives, including keya’s sister, her sister’s boyfriend, and her father. personally, I think I really would have appreciated seeing keya’s mother’s POV as opposed to her sister’s boyfriend’s, but I do think that each POV definitely held its own in allowing the reader to get a much better picture of what was going on, and give each character a fuller arc as the story’s events progressed. each character very visibly had flaws, was aware of said flaws, and actively worked to redeem themselves throughout the novel. I really appreciated how raw and honest each commentary felt, and how it truly felt like I was put in the character’s head when the perspective changed.

the plot.

to be completely honest, although I was gripped by the plot throughout the first half of the book, it felt like things started to unravel during the second half. there was definitely some element of “it’s getting too heavy/sad” in there, but even more so there was an element of “where is this going.” it just felt like there was so much going on with each perspective and character arc, and plot point, that i…didn’t really know what was going on at all. I felt very disappointed by the end of the book, because after all that, it felt like all those loose ends weren’t tied up, and the book just…ended. the first half was amazing, but there wasn’t enough follow through for me to enjoy it quite as much by the end.

I absolutely loved so many elements of the plot that were introduced in the first half, and I have to give the author and the book credit there, but I don’t think the executed was quite there.

the writing style

very similar thoughts here as to the plot. I absolutely fell in love with the writing style at the beginning of the book, to the point where I couldn’t stop gushing about it! but then I kept reading, and it felt like it got increasingly chaotic and confusing.


ultimately, I really really enjoyed my experience of reading the first half of this book. I felt like it had it all – a gripping, interesting, and unique plot, combined with a beautiful writing style and compelling characters. but somewhere along the way, it incorporated too many (and too increasingly complex) plot points and character arcs, and I completed the book feeling confused, emotional, and let down. there was a lot that I loved and some time spent reading this book that was truly enjoyable, but not enough to make me ultimately end the book feeling like I’d want to strongly recommend it.

Have you read Keya Das’s Second Act? I’d love to hear your thoughts down below!

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day <3

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