Monday, 18 November 2019

Before I Go

Not many people would be happy to greet death like an old friend. Most of us would fear or feel rather uncomfortable talking or even thinking about it. It could be the last thing one would want to ponder upon or carry in their heart like a burden. Especially a young happily married woman like Daisy. 

Life hasn’t been a bed of roses to Daisy. With constant check ups and treatments to win over a breast cancer it’s been a rough time for her in the prime years of her life. Finally, when she thought she could take a breath of relief from all of it and her husband all ready to celebrate the 4th anniversary of a cancer free life, fate decides to blow up her trying-to-settle-down life once again, this time with an irreversible blow as she is detected with cancer (again!) and there are only a few options left this time other than gathering all her strength and prepare for her death.

“And it reminds me, the first time I had cancer I learned that there’s only one thing that’s worse than actually having cancer, and that’s having to tell people you have cancer. Never mind close family members, like a mother who will weep so uncontrollably that you think she may pass out from the effort of it.”

“Dying is for old people and orphaned children in Africa with distended bellies and dads who get stuck down by cars when they’re on their bicycles in the wrong intersection at the wrong time of the day. It’s not for 27 year old woman who just got married and want to have babies and feel fit and healthy”

Would death become any easier to handle if one knows that it’s on its way? Or does it make things even creepier and create havoc? Many would opine that it would help a person to be mentally prepared, live your life. But try imagining how one could live with that cold harsh truth bubbling up inside them that the death of themselves or a loved one is getting nearer with each passing moment! That emotional turmoil could kill you within with every tick of the clock, may be even faster than the fatal illness could kill you which you’re diagnosed with.

With every line in the book, Before I Go explicitly expresses the journey of Daisy towards her untimely death. Her struggle to keep things under control, the breakdowns which come along nevertheless, the fears, the disappointments and every other emotions were laid out all raw and open to the readers. Every turned page would build up the tension to face the inevitable.

However, the story isn’t only about Daisy. What about the loved ones we leave behind? Would they be able to cope up with the loss? Especially a man like Jack who always relied on Daisy to keep things clean, tidy and organized. The book pinpoints how anticipating a tragic loss could change other lives connected to the protagonist. What others go through is a different struggle altogether which most of us have taken for granted with our sole attention on the victim. Colleen Oakley has done a wonderful job in portraying the torments each character around Daisy go through as loved ones of a terminally ill patient would do. Still, this isn’t a story only about the loss and the sorrow. It’s also about the strength of unwavering love, familial bonds and hopes. It unveils that universal truth, that we should learn to cherish our lives when we still have the chance.

This has been one of the most heart touching books I have ever read. For me, it was an absolute tearjerker, an epitome of love, the sense of belonging, the ultimate loss and grief. The characters are sweet which makes us fall in love with them (and make us even more sensitive towards the climax). Ones who loved books like P.S. I Love You would certainly love this one. But I should warn you that this won’t really be a light reading despite being narrated in a lucid language. Be ready to embrace all the emotions which would leave you with a heavy heart and tearful eyes but an enlightenment about life the same time.

“He found a way to love me when I was doing everything I could to not let him”

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Big Little Lies

Firstly, a big thank you to all the followers of Chubby Cheeks Column  for hanging in there despite me abandoning the blog for so long. Secondly, a sincere promise to keep my reviews being posted more frequently in the coming months. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty has been the book I read just after my last blog post and never got to share my views about it with you all since then. Therefore, I feel it should be the first book to write about and break this long silence.

The story is woven around three major characters. Jane, the young single mother who is in a constant struggle of running away from her haunting past; Madeline, who is compromised to deal with the unbearable sweetness of her ex-husband’s wife; and the lovely Celeste, who seems to have the perfect husband and the adorable twin boys. They bond over their kids who attend the same school in the beautiful coastal area of Pirriwee. With that set up as the opening to the story-line one would seriously consider it to be an ordinary chick lit: mothers of young kids with different personalities but mundane lifestyles and all sorts of problems familiar to all of us. What’s extraordinary is that a crime has happened in this not-so-happening neighbourhood and as readers, we really wouldn’t have a clue about what actually has happened yet alone guess who did it. So, brace yourself for that final blow because I assure you, it would certainly give you the shock of your lives.

Out of the many books I have read and loved, this must be the one which was written in the simplest form of English. It’s quite amusing how the writer could pull out such a gripping tell tale with simple storytelling. The characters were developed to fit to our real life and the backgrounds were well speculated to bring out the natural flow for the story. Furthermore, I found it quite interesting how the curiosity within us were stirred by presenting different people’s perceptions about the crime and what lead it to happen rather than directly offering us with a bunch of clues. Instead, the story accommodates the readers to wander among many ideas and let that uncertainty be the driving force to be attentive towards every page turned.

In most suspense novels, we are eager to find out the culprit for a crime which is described in detail while this book stands out for bringing in the suspense to the crime scene all together. It is recommended to anyone who would fancy reading a mind blowing plot twist disguised in a simple storytelling. 

“They say it's good to let your grudges go, but I don't know, I'm quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”

“Oh, calamity!”

Sunday, 25 March 2018

My Sister's Keeper

The first book for this year and I’m thankful to all my friends who have been recommending “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult for years now. This is only the second book of Jodi Picoult’s that I have read, so rating it as her best wouldn’t be a well supported statement. But this was surely able to leave a huge imprint on my heart and fueled my wanderlust for the realms of thoughts and emotions I never knew existed.

When someone we love is seriously ill, all we want to do is to find ways to cure him/her in the best and quickest possible way. This situation is even a million times more intense for a parent, if the person in a critical condition is his/her child. Unfortunately, the same thing happened with Sara Fitzgerald. She once had a beautiful and happy life with a loving husband and her two kids, but that divine blessing wore off in just a few years. Shattering her whole world to pieces, one day they got to know that their youngest child, Kate, a 3 year old, is suffering from APL, a rare type of leukemia. Like any other parents, Sara and Brian go to supreme lengths, as much as humanly possible, to save Kate and that includes giving birth to Anna Fitzgerald, a sibling to little Kate, genetically designed so she would be the perfect match for a donor to her sister. Since her birth she becomes the her sister’s lifeline, donating whatever the doctors suggest, but at thirteen years of age she realizes that enough is enough. Anna, our protagonist, decides to file a case for Medical Emancipation. Would she win her case? Given the fact that she is the only one who could save Kate or at least give a chance for her to live longer, will it be a real win even if she does win?
“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?”

“You know how every now and then, you have a moment where your whole life stretches out ahead of you like a forked road, and even as you choose one gritty path you've got your eyes on the other the whole time, certain that you're making a mistake.”

We can’t measure the love parents have for their children. No matter how the whole world treats us, we could always count on our parents about everything. Is that true for Anna, considering she has never been asked permission to be pricked with needles, so that she could give a chance of living to her sister? Do parents pick favourites out of their children, is Sara no different in that? Those would be just a few of the conflicts the story will make us wonder about and try to debate on, to bring out a fair judgement.

This isn’t the first story I have read about a cancer patient. Still, the story carves out its uniqueness by focusing on the lives of the family rather than on the cancer patient. It does contain a lot of details about the years that passed since they first got to know about the cancer and how all the medical treatments went, which gives good proof that the author has done a great deal of research on that. But we also get to experience all the calamities which can happen in a family when one of them is suffering from a critical illness, the sacrifices they make, the uncertainties which cloud around their happiness, all in all how hard it is to live a day as a normal family just like others. So, the story is practically a telltale of the emotional turmoil within the Fitzgerald household.
“Normal, in our house, is like a blanket too short for a bed--sometimes it covers you just fine, and other times it leaves you cold and shaking; and worst of all, you never know which of the two it's going to be.”

I always liked the first person narration of a story as it allows us to feel it more alive. Going a few steps further, the author has penned down the story as a collection of narrations by all the seven main characters. Evidently Picoult has done a great job in getting to the skin of each of these characters and bringing out each one’s perspective towards the story’s theme for us to feel. We get to look through each of their eyes and mind, which diminishes the possibility of a monotonous storytelling, as well as making it more sensitive and open minded about the issue which is addressed. I am no parent, so I can only imagine, but I think the story provides a well-reasoned view on each character’s decisions and actions. Even though we could expect the ending of the story, since it’s woven around a cancer patient, the plot twist will definitely hit you hard and question the judgement you had over the situations until then. It really swirls the story to a different dimension.

The book has a well-designed set of characters, an interesting way of narration and a strong plot. But I wasn’t really convinced about Anna’s character at some instances. Although she is 13 years old, her narrations were more complex and suitable for a grown up. True that her character was developed as a minor who is matured enough to take grown up decisions. In that case, her behaviour like an actual teenager, all the dilemmas she was going through, torn apart within her family, was not well-suited to the matured composure she otherwise dons.
“It's about a girl who is on the cusp of becoming someone.. A girl who may not know what she wants right now, and she may not know who she is right now, but who deserves the chance to find out.”

One lesson the story teaches us is to try to put ourselves in others’ shoes, before being rude and judgmental based on what we see from the outside. We never know what goes on in others’ lives, which makes them who they are and what they do.
“There are some things we do because we convince ourselves it would be better for everyone involved. We tell ourselves that it's the right thing to do, the altruistic thing to do. It's far easier than telling ourselves the truth.”

Giving credits to the excellent piece of writing done by a talented author, I am excited to recommend the book to all the readers out there. Then again, on a second thought, I would also like to give a heads-up before you make the choice. “My Sister’s Keeper” would be a great read for the ones who like a good psychological thriller and are mentally prepared to get emotionally involved in the story of a family going through a lot of struggles and misfortune. So don’t forget to grab some tissues along with the book.

“It doesn't take a whole long life to realize that what we deserve to have, we rarely get.”

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a book which had been recommended to me for quite some time now. If only I knew it would turn out to be such a great read I surely would have put more efforts in getting my hands on the book the earliest possible!

The concept of time travelling isn’t really a novelty in the world of fiction. Also, I’m sure that almost everyone of us might have wished at least once in our lives to have the ability to time travel. Especially the ones who are fond of reading or watching fictitious stories and had enjoyed this very theme. But here’s a heads up for those who haven’t read this book yet. You would definitely have second thoughts on wishing for that ability when you get to experience the lives of Henry and Clare, our two narrators.

When I read the title of the book, I automatically imagined some kind of a machine in which the narrator has to hop in and travel through the time to his heart’s content. Now that sounds too cliche, or predictable thanks to most other fictions we have come across which are about time travel. So, I was surprised to know that Henry isn’t any scientist who invents a time machine, nor there is any kind of time machine invented by anybody as that. Henry is just a well educated and handsome librarian who happened to be gifted with this rare ability, but of course in a crooked way. True that the ability comes in handy or as a blessing in some situations, but overall the mere fact that Henry just vanishes from his present and land in somewhere in the past or future which is unknown pretty much feels like a curse upon this loving couple. As if the uncertainty and the unpredictability of the time travel isn’t enough to worry fate has sprinkled some more absurdity to this situation. Henry can’t carry anything with him during his journeys and that rule applies to his very own clothing as well. Now that proves my point earlier, does it really sounds fun to be able to time travel if you can’t control when and where and pops up at a random place at a random time all naked? Whether Henry like it or not, this is something he has been dealing with all his life and its not only him that lives an abnormal life but also his wife Clare who happens to go through all the uncertainty, despair and fear any wife of such time traveller would have to go through.

“I won't ever leave you, even though you're always leaving me.”
“It's hard being left behind. It's hard to be the one who stays.”

What tempted me to read the book was its synopsis in the back cover. “This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty six, and were married when Clare was twenty two and Henry thirty…”. I remember rereading that line wondering how in the world we could believe such plot. But now I feel as if i’m the stupid one to have even an ounce of doubt because the story was well plotted, cleverly presented and incredibly convincing!

This book wouldn’t really be a quick read, I suggest that you take your time to read it. Though the writing style is lucid, the story could be little confusing at the beginning. Of course it wasn’t fair of me to expect smooth flow of a story which starts from the childhood and ends with the old age or death in a timely manner. We are experiencing the life journey of a time traveller, so be prepared for all the big and small leaps in time between the past, present and the future. The dates and the ages of our narrators at the beginning of every incident sure helps us have a good imagination and understanding. Infact I find it as a very clever idea of storytelling. However, its advisable to tighten your grip as the swirl of events through the five hundred odd pages could be quite the ride.

“Listen, sometimes when you finally find out, you realize that you were much better off not knowing.”

The story being narrated by both Clare and Henry creates a more vivid picture. It facilitate us readers to experience the story in first-person point of view and that too in two ways. I praise the ability of the author who got into the skin of not just one narrator but two. With all these attributes she makes sure to leave no stone unturned. I’m amazed at the talent of the author for maintaining the interest of the reader till the very end of the story. It has a very convincing climax and thankfully we get to reach it very smoothly, absorbing all the emotions and mentally prepared. It is truly a very sweet love story, nothing like those juicy and soppy ones which targets the female readers. This one is about deeper feelings, pure love, commitment and all the adjustments and understandings a couple as well as all family and friends would go through in a strange situation. Its about the never ending efforts to live a normal life even after having to deal with most abnormal and unbearable conditions.

“Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element.”

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading fiction. Even for the male readers who might think twice before picking up a romance novel. The book deserves five stars for the great plot, fascinating character development and the excellent storytelling. Clare surely is a beautiful soul everyone would fall in love with and you would definitely admire Henry for his courage and perseverance. Though it's a thick book and might need a little more time of yours than normal, I guarantee it would be time well spent indulging yourself in this delightful read. Happy reading!

“I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I'm tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that's been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”

“Time is priceless, but it’s Free. You can't own it, you can use it. You can spend it. But you can't keep it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Flawed - Book Review

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern being one of my all time favourites I thought it would be a good choice to break the one year long silence in the blog. This is the first dystopian novel I have read and the first Young Adult novel written by the author. Regardless the stacks of new books that I have waiting to be read I read this book twice within a year’s time and that itself is a proof how great a read I find it is.

Celestine North, the protagonist is a girl of definitions and logic. Her boyfriend Art finds her perfect which means the world to her. Just few months away from turning 18 years, she lives a happy and comfortable life any average 17 year old might live. She is no leader and is someone who always try to fit in, but one day she takes a decision which costs her everybody and everything she cherish. Just one move and her life turns upside down and us readers are taken on a journey through her new life full of hurt and never ending battles.

The story is set up on a dystopian world where the government has implied a system to punish the people who are ethically wrong. People’s mistakes are traced and judged by the authority called as “the Guild” and the accused are branded as “Flawed” which would make them live a life full of sufferings till their last breath. Guild’s vision is to cleanse the population from committing ethically wrong acts and to make great example to the rest of the society so everyone would be scared to make mistakes. Would such plan really will be effective as the government expect? Couldn’t there be any flaws in the very system of branding the Flawed? The story ignites a great debate over the makeshift system and the practicality or the humanity in it.

As usual, Cecelia has penned down another masterpiece. I really admire her skills of storytelling with such depth of emotions. It was a real tear jerker for me. Character building of Celestine was quite meticulous. The overnight changes of her life was presented so smoothly and detailed giving the reader ample space to get into the character and feel it for themselves. One has to be quite insensitive to not to weep over the misery the protagonist goes through. The story make us realize that it takes only a moment for our lives to collapse, how uncertain our joys and life could be and how cruel people among our friends would turn out. It teaches us not to trust others easily but to trust ourselves more. All in all its a book which will stir your emotions as well as your thoughts and make you wonder about life.

Compared to the other works of the author I noticed a slight difference with her writing style in Flawed. It was more simple and direct and felt truly as a narration from a young girl who see the world through logic and definitions. It's amazing how the story could create such great impact on the reader’s emotions with that kind of lucid writing style.
The only flaw in Flawed is that it just stops in midway of the story which will continue in its sequel “Perfect”. One years wait was quite agonizing for it was truly a gripping read and I would say that all its new readers are lucky because the sequel is available now to be read in one go. I would give the story 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who would like to read a dystopian novel. Though it's labelled as YA it sure will be quite insightful for all the adults.

Ending the note with one of the favourite quotes I found in the book.

“I’ve learned that to be courageous is to feel fear within, every step of the way. Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It’s a battle or a dance as to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous.”

Thursday, 10 November 2016

I Let You Go - Book Review

It was only few weeks back that I happened to land on a random blog post with a list of book recommendations for mind blowing plot twists. Out of the 37 suggestions I was glad to remember this title and was quite surprised to come across the book in the library. Even after few days since I have finished reading the book I still can't stop thinking about it. “I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh was truly a gripping story with mind blowing plot twists and I will try my best to not write any spoilers of it in my review.

No matter wherever you live, news of road accidents will be plenty for you to come across daily. How do we react to such news? I’m sure that we wouldn’t hesitate even for a few seconds to sympathize the victims who are badly injured or worse dead and criticize/curse the drivers whose carelessness cost lives. Have we ever thought of putting ourselves in their shoes and imagine how they might be feeling about it? No doubt that we would try to imagine the victim’s loved ones but what about the person with guilt? Will they remain the same regardless the legal conditions they have to go through?

Jacob Jordan is a 5 years old, happy little boy who would love to race to his home on the way back from school. Everything was just as normal it could be on any other day, so his mom loosen her grip of him for a moment so that little Jacob could be himself, the little bundle of excitement and energy. In a split second everything changes and Jacob’s lifeless body would be over the road and his mom would never be able to forgive herself for letting him go. With that, opens a hit-and-run case for the CID to follow, with hardly any leads to support them and a mother is unable to come out of her grief and guilt for letting this happen that she runs away, unable to keep herself steady in this turmoil.

From the beginning itself I was cautious about the plot twists. Unintentionally I was having doubts on certain characters and incidents but never ever I would have guessed the real plot twist in the story. It shook me hard and left me all flabbergasted! Something I found special about the book is its narration. I believe that the writer has pulled in a real stunt by entwining the story by three different point of views. I was amused how meticulous the three narrations have been used to make the content rich and exciting while maintaining a good flow with all the incidents well linked and mixed without any repetition. The characters were fine tuned so as the surroundings that it was so indulging. One wouldn’t have even the faintest idea that they would be spun around the next moment. The language is smooth, descriptive and ever so convincing. You will practically feel like living in the story soaking to the whirlwind of all emotions. It not only addresses an aftermath of a tragic accident but also the hullabaloo of family life.

This is the type of book which urges you to read it once again so that you could check for the places where you missed the hints which could have alarmed you to not get carried away by the things we see just on the surface. I would recommend it to anyone who is eager to read a psychological thriller and has enough time to savour each and every moment of it rather than hurrying through the pages. Ending the note with a quote from the book. It sure won’t give you a clue about the story but something to remember always.

“You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals”

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Room - Book Review

I like to call myself an avid reader. But I wouldn’t always come across a sensational read which would leave me all overwhelmed for days even after I finish reading. Hardly a book would excel in making a reader feel so saturated that they wouldn’t like starting off with another book immediately just because they would like to live in the story for little longer. “Room” written by Emma Donoghue is such kind of a masterpiece which I was fortunate to come across.

Can you imagine yourself being locked up in a 11 square feet room for seven long years? For most of us it would be hard to even imagine! The young lady who is one of the main two characters in this story had to go through even a lot more than that. She was snatched out of her world to be captivated for sexual assault which resulted in giving birth to a baby and raise the child all by herself inside that very cage she was a prisoner of. No matter what kind of a hellhole she was doomed to be, she starts a new life with the birth of her baby boy, Jack. She gathers up all her courage to raise him up and does a wonderful job in parenting given all the circumstances and the strangest environment they were forced to live with. Deep within her she always knew that they deserve much more and life cannot be settled here permanently just like that. So one day she comes up with a new plan to break free with the help of her young son who never knew that a world outside really exists till that moment.

The story starts when Jack turns 5. It was narrated by him, the way he sees things and the way he understands. The author really has gotten to the skin of the characters and does a marvelous job in presenting the story in a very heart touching way. The innocence, honesty and the pureness of a small child’s imagination and thought process is radiated in each word. The wrong verb conjugations (cutted, brung, knowed, etc) used here and there by the author was a good trick to constantly remind us that the story is being told by little Jack. Regardless how bitter and severe the theme of the book is the narration has its own charm on the readers. One had to be really heartless to not fall in love with Jack.

The book is divided into five sections (Presents, Unlying, Dying, After and Living). Each depicts a phase of life the little boy and his “Ma” had to go through. Its not just about being captivated or trying to escape. Its a story about all of them and so much more, all woven together and leading us to a well defined closure. The grounds of uncertainty the boy and the mother lives by makes it quite gripping and you will be hooked to the story till the last page. I’m sure the impact and the intensity of it would be greater if you could read it in one go. Alas I couldn’t! It was so compelling that I hated every moment whenever I had to put down the book and had to tend to something else. At times it made me feel that I was ignoring and abandoning this cute angel when he is all ready to share his story with us.

Readers would surely sympathize on the poor young lady who was forced to go through such a torment but the same time they would be amused by her courage, strength and intellectuals to cope up with the inevitable for so long and make the best out of her life rather than cracking up. As she later on mentions, she is not just the only one who had to go through a misery. According to her, “People are locked up in all sorts of ways”. The specificity would differ each individual’s story but ultimately we all have to deal with our own demons. The book represents all of us, who are caged in some or other way, scared and helpless, but all we need is the courage to take the chance and break free.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Its a must read that would tickle your brain, stir up all your emotions and make you wonder about life. Ending up with a thought from little Jack.

“When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pictures of real and Outside being totally real. Now i’m Outside but it turns out lots of it isn’t real at all”
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