Book Review — Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Eden Rose McKinley and Bonnie Wiston-Stanley are bestfriends. Eden is as untameable as Bonnie is responsible and ambitious. They share all of their secrets with each other. Or so Eden thought. But one day, Bonnie just takes off, leaving Eden to deal with the repercussions of a world that comes crashing down around her. It soon comes out in the open that Bonnie has decided to flee with her music teacher, Mr. Cohn. While the police and Bonnie’s parents are chasing every clue to track them down, Eden can’t help but wonder who she is without Bonnie and if their friendship was even genuine.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

It was such a pleasant surprise to realize that this book is nothing like a typical YA contemporary. Sure it has its share of gossiping high schoolers and rebellious teenagers, but the entirety of Goodbye, Perfect focuses on what it feels like to be left behind by someone you loved and trusted the most. There are snippets of chats, newspaper articles that bind the story together. I liked the portions where Eden looks back on conversations she’s had with Bonnie, which under the present circumstances help us understand what nudged Bonnie into running away. Sara Barnard’s writing is neither over the top, nor too simple for the plot she is going after. It is her characterization and depiction of heartbreak that takes the cake!

The torrent of emotions that Eden goes through pulls at our heartstrings. On the one hand, she wants to support Bonnie when everyone is badmouthing her. But deep within, she harbors a sense of hurt and anger at Bonnie’s reckless actions. In a way, it shows that she’s gullible. Eden makes herself out to be the anti-hero, lashing out at her family and not caring about her academics, when she so clearly wants to belong somewhere, to someone. Her relationship with Connor was one of the cutest and refreshing things about this book. Some of the narrative showed just how mature Eden could be, then at other times she wouldn’t be able to think rationally. The stigma of adoption, labeling children based on their upbringing, academic pressure by society are some issues that have been addressed in this novel and I commend the author for doing that in a sensitive manner. I love how supportive and warm Eden’s family is, in comparison to that of Bonnie’s.

Final verdict – It’s a lovely book, that I would recommend to everyone who has ever felt misunderstood, or burdened or lost and to everyone who enjoys contemporary stories.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An epistolary novel that’s all about deconstructing labels and understanding the intricacies of friendship, expectations, society etc.

Review copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan India

Book Review — I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

On the precipice of Clare’s wedding, Edith (a total stranger) helps her realize what a big mistake she is about to make. Gathering all her courage, Clare breaks off her engagement to kind yet temperamental Zach. Weeks of anguish later, she receives a letter that informs her of Edith’s demise and that Edith has bequeathed a vacation home to her – the Blue Sky House. When Clare moves into this scenic property, she finds two ledgers that hint at a bigger picture. In an attempt to understand who Edith was, Clare and her bestfriend, Dev embark on a journey, connecting the dots of Edith’s far and wide imprint on other’s lives; in doing so, Clare discovers more about herself than she’d ever hoped to know.

Now, the synopsis may appear to be ordinary, but PLEASE DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THIS BOOK. It is spellbinding, heartbreaking and basically, a huge warm hug! I am still hungover. The author’s writing style is poetic in bringing out the minute imageries of every scene. You get to read the chapters from Edith and Clare’s perspectives alternatively; which means you are shuffling between two time periods – the 1950s and the present. When you get to the end of the book, this structure will make perfect sense, as everything falls into place magically. Some of the initial chapters from Edith’s perspective were a little too slow paced which deterred me from really getting into her side of the story. But once you cross the first 20-30 pages, you can’t help but be in awe of Edith. The storyline is beautiful; it creates a tidy little package of what it means to be alive, paying tribute to seemingly all human experiences.

Some of the themes explored in this novel are that of mystery, domestic violence, mental health, self-discovery, familial bonds and unconditional love. But as you read I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, you begin to notice just how much more flavor has been infused into it. You’d think that nothing could top off the very plot and her writing style, but hands down, this has some of the best characters I’ve ever read! No fluff or 1 dimensional characters. Each and every person in this book has such a unique vibe. It seriously made me reconsider what kind of characters I have been reading about for so long. Zach, although not one of the main characters, is highly bipolar and affects the story on a different tangent. I truly appreciate how violent and abusive behavior is dealt with throughout this novel. Edith, a female character to look upto, is righteous and so full of love for everyone. She has this knowing persona that convinces you she is more than just-a-normal-lady.

Also, what a complex family unit! Thank you for making me love the idea of large families. I wouldn’t say that this book is heavy on romance, because it goes above and beyond the love between a couple. Especially with regards to Dev and Clare’s equation, I feel like the author has hit home run in conveying something precious and real. Having said all that (I still want to say more), I want you to understand that no review would ever do full justice to what this book presents to its reader. It fills my heart and soul to have immersed in the multi-tiered stories that Marisa de los Santos has penned down. If this book doesn’t win a Goodreads Choice Award in 2018, then I’d be so so disappointed! A MUST READ. Just please pick it up once it releases. Please.

Ratings – 4.5 out of 5 stars.

What do you get out of it? Life. This book breathes life into its audience as it unearths the life stories of several people bound by fate and blood. It stands for everything I love about writing and reading.

Thank you HarperCollins and Edelweiss for giving me access to an e-galley in exchange for a review. 

Book Review — Mothering a Muslim by Nazia Erum

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Mothering a Muslim by Nazia Erum is a nonfiction that explores the extent of Islamophobia in Indian society by bringing to light horrid instances of bullying and discrimination of Muslim children in schools. As a Muslim mother, Nazia gives voice to the woes of other Muslim women who are caught in the predicament of owning upto their religious identity or hiding it for fear of being considered to be extremists. She reaches out to children, teachers and parents alike, who have been impacted/ involved in the misleading stereotypes and negative bias associated with Muslims. Over the course of her book, the author draws from various sources the heartrending conclusion that even today, there’s a great deal of animosity surrounding religious communities and more often than not, innocent children are dragged into the aftermath of a verbal bloodbath.

This review will not be a comment on the superiority of any religion, rather it takes into consideration the effect that negative bias has on children. The author’s writing style is punctuated by her desire to get a point across to her readers. She writes in a very collected and matter-of-fact manner. It’s a short book, one that you can finish in less than half a day. Although Nazia incorporates the stories of many families in her narrative, on a molecular level, they are just that – individually recounted instances of bullying and prejudice. Sometimes I wished that they were more seamlessly embedded into a story format. But I understand why it’s important to point out facts pertaining to a prevalent issue in the way she has.

The people featured in this book come from all walks of life. The schools mentioned are a good mix of popular and less-heard-of institutions. All of what’s said in this book is very saddening. What bothers me the most is the fact that children, who don’t even understand the basics of politics and power play, get treated harshly by others; and that too on the basis of what they hear in their homes. Bullying is a very sensitive topic and we don’t get into the details as much, but it’s evident from the children’s inability to grasp the reality of their situation. All in all, it’s not a pleasant picture. But it’s one that must be acknowledged for sure, so that we as a society can come together and remedy the evils that threaten to disintegrate us. I would definitely recommend this book to others so that they can get an understanding of one side of the story.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? – A disheartening glance at the complexities of having an Muslim identity in today’s world.

Thank you Juggernaut for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

It’s Not Your Fault

A friend of mine once said, “Being close to somebody is about how they make you feel.” This couldn’t be more true. We cling to the people who make us feel strong, special and worthy of good things. We gravitate towards those who can give us what we’re looking for from life – be it fame, money or just a social circle to fall back on. But what happens when, as time passes, they’re no longer the person you used to identify with? Maybe you feel the need to justify their changed behavior and you are wont to accepting them nevertheless. But there’s also a fair chance that you just can’t “go with the flow”. And that’s okay.

Like me, you may be standing at that point in life where your only human interactions are with your family (if you’re an adult living with your folks, that is) and/or select friends via social media. You may be wondering what happened to all those hour long conversations with your bestfriend(s) from school or college. You may be seeing them in a new light. In between all that, you may also be questioning yourself as to “What went wrong?” The answer is nothing. It’s not up to you or me to prevent someone from being who they wish to be. Neither are we obliged to deal with a relation that has grown toxic.

All of my experiences has taught me one important thing, amongst others. If you appreciate or value somebody, make sure they know it. Cause there will come a time when engaging in small talk with said person would be a strain. We’re all caught in the throes of keeping up with today. And so it’s only likely that we would grow and flourish in the way we know how to. It’s only likely that people will grow apart for a hundred different reasons. A shuffle in priorities, conflict of interests, distance and on goes the list. But you can’t possibly hold it against them for choosing to walk away or yourself. In a world of no-strings-attached, guarded conversations and rising number of online “followers”, you ought to consider yourself lucky for having enjoyed something meaningful, even if for a short while.

Sometimes, bestfriends become strangers and families get estranged. That’s how it is.

This is something I should have understood a long time back. Perhaps, it’s something you’d like to hear now.

Anyhow, the festive season is here and I truly wish y’all a fantastic end to this year!

xx

Book Review — How May I Help You? by Deepak Singh

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

How May I Help You? is a memoir that traces Deepak Singh’s experiences in America, as a well educated individual who is compelled to work a minimum wage job. Through chapters that unravel his descent into American society, we are also pulled into the lives of his colleagues and acquaintances who are themselves struggling to get by in a world that is foreshadowed by apathy and fallacy. Spanning across two years and some, this book brings to light the strong culture shock that Deepak deals with, when confronted by an America quite unlike the picture painted by the big screen. What this autobiography succeeds in doing commendably is emphasizing that people may be separated by oceans and borders but we all couldn’t be more alike due to our shared sufferings and encounters.

As someone who has aspired to live abroad, the synopsis of this book was very intriguing to me. At the same time, I don’t really read autobiographies. That said, How May I Help You? is a very smooth read, captivating because of its simplistic depiction of a foreign society and earnest in its portrayal of a profession that isn’t held in high esteem. The author’s writing style is very straightforward which I appreciate when it comes to non-fiction; I found myself wanting to finish the book in one sitting. The story is endearing to say the least. I’m sure we’ve all felt lost at some point in time and so Deepak’s sentiments resonate with us. To be stranded in a foreign land, unable to form genuine connections with people there, can be a heartrending experience. I really liked how diverse lifestyles were reflected in addition to Deepak’s. All of which help us get a better understanding of the non-glitzy aspect of living in America.

It also draws comparisons to the low income group in India, trying to find a togetherness in the struggles of people across the world. The voice of immigrants and diasporic communities is always a refreshing one and this book is no different. We come to learn just how ignorant people can be about other cultures, misled by popular representations. Kudos to the author for having aptly delineated themes of poverty, loneliness, camaraderie and personal growth. Don’t be intimidated by the harsh realities that are mirrored here; it is one that we should acknowledge. All in all, I really liked this book and it has encouraged me to pick up other memoirs. I would definitely recommend it to everyone; whether you read autobiographies or not, DON’T MISS OUT ON THIS!

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An honest glimpse of what it means to be working abroad, devoid of any sugar coating. And a taste of culturally diverse mindsets.

Thank you Penguin India for sending me this book in exchange for a review.