This book has done what many others haven’t recently.
It surprised me.
The title evoked all sorts of plot expectations including but not limited to a loved one’s death, an unwilling parting and a few more that I don’t care to elucidate here. But the book opens with the disappearance of an middle aged single mother of two teenagers and a child who hasn’t yet lived through a decade. The book, unusually, is written with dual and often differing viewpoints of a 17-year-old Avik and a 16-year-old Mou on whose shoulders suddenly lie, the weighty adult responsibilities of running the family and caring for their 8-year-old brother, Ishaan, sans the only adult in the family.
What works for the book?
Everything works for the book!
- The utter relatability of teen angst and the peer pressure to fit in, is skillfully expressed by the author, whether it is in her depiction of the gradual loosening of Mou’s social bonds at school or in her portrayal of Avik’s confused sexuality as the plot progresses. What impressed me the most was the way Avik’s orientation was revealed to the readers without a hint of torrid sexual escapades or trysts and how that revelation itself was tied back to the overarching theme of the book.
- The suspense around why an apparently affectionate mother abandoned her children is built to a crescendo until the big reveal, though a careful reader would have sniffed out wafts of the “why’s” in different parts of the book.
- The issue of mental health and the lack of awareness or community support around this well documented health issue is also dealt with in the book.
- Mou’s amateur sleuthing is utterly believable and I am glad the author hadn’t conferred a Feluda-like aura upon a school age girl.
What could have been better:
Honestly, I loved the way the author had created an utterly plausible world of a lower-middle class family in crisis, which stank of reality in it’s everyday descriptions of the challenges that the many home chores and baby sitting duties would present to two teenagers.
The only jarring note in the entire book was the sudden estrangement of the mother and the seemingly heartless abandonment of a small child, that felt disconnected to a normal emotions of a mother of three children.
Verdict: Definite yay! Kasturi Patra is an excellent teller of tales and on my reading watch list after this book.
You can buy the book from Amazon here.