Radhika Maira Tabrez’s debut novel is one of the anticipated books for me this year. But even after that, for reasons not in my control, I couldn’t pick up the book till now.
I finished it a few hours ago, and here goes my two paises (Indianization, you see. No cent or penny from now on.) on the book.
The book’s epigraph says,
The real battle between good and bad is determining which is which.
This is an appropriate line for this book, as most of the characters essentially struggle for determining what is good and what is bad, what is light and what is dark. This is the theme on which an intricate story is developed in a fictional town called Bydore. But the town is so well-drawn that I never felt it is a fictional place.
The main characters (note the plural) of this book have murky pasts which are slowly exposed as we move along with the story. Because of their pasts, they struggle to come to terms with their own demons. Like Susan and Matthew suffer a continuous tension between themselves for situations out of their control. The depth of the relationship between a son and a mother is very well portrayed here even without much direct conversation between them. A letter and its sentence by sentence impact on Matthew makes him realize the true motives behind Susan’s acts which otherwise seems selfish and escapist. And thus Matthew becomes a changed person.
An abused and betrayed wife who gets a shelter at Susan’s house also tries to build a whole new identity and life in Bydore. But when everything is becoming perfect and life seems enjoyable, another fateful event shatters her. From there, she again battles to stand up and be strong enough to accept the happiness that she doesn’t think she deserves.
Of all things, what impressed me about Tabrez’s debut is that her handling of human emotions. She did it so convincingly that one cannot doubt any action done by any character.
But this same thing also sometimes works against the flow of the story. Everything need not be explained. Stating this, I must comment that as a debut, this is pretty good one. I actually felt sorry when I ended it which spans some 260+ pages. If a writer can make a reader feel that at the end, I think she has done a great job.
With her caliber of which I am well aware of, I expect she will be able to produce some wonderful work in near future.