The book, as its blurb describes it, is the story of a thirty-year-old ‘brand-spanking-new’ widow, Madhubala Ray who lives in Chennai with her seventy-year-old Mother in Law.
Written as diary entries by the protagonist, the novel begins with her, wallowing in her husband’s loss. As she bares it all in her diary, you are introduced to her Tupperware-selling neighbour, an interesting bisexual best friend, her colleagues from work and some of her students whom she teaches Social Science.
As she seeks solace in wine and vodka, she’s drawn towards a colleague, a relationship that has been described in a detached, faraway manner. The author Chitrangada Mukherjee has spent quite a bit of time, and quite successfully I’d say, in creating a visual imagery of the protagonist’s surroundings.
If you are expecting a lone suffering lady swathed in white showing any overt signs of depression, you’d be disappointed. Instead there is an honest portrayal of a lady who has practical issues to worry about- like how to pay the rent and whether or not to hire an auto. Survival is high on her priority list. Can you really blame her for that?
The memories of a dead husband who’d loved her and who she had loved, are portrayed quite realistically. As she deals with the men in her life (there are three, including the BFF), you find yourself rooting for her instead of judging her and almost exhorting her to make the right choice. The protagonist’s parents have been described with a tenderness that one feels for one’s parents. Despite their foibles and follies, they are loved and looked up to.
The author has done quite some work on the details as she describes Chennai through the eyes of an outsider, a Bengali widow who doesn’t even know the language.
The book is a very realistic and honest portrayal of her struggles and has its funny bits. It’s a light read and the pages are easy to turn. Towards the end, however, I felt that in an effort to tie the loose ends, there was a rush to set things right, especially the MIL who till then was silently cruising along, in the narrative. As everything suddenly falls in place, you still want to know whether or not she goes with your ‘choice’.
That felt a little jarring and I was let down. I was kind of hoping that the quirky odd ball widow would continue her unapologetic streak but I was denied that pleasure.
Overall, I’d say this book can be a good companion in these rains, for those who want to snuggle in their favourite chair with a cup of steaming coffee and a book that doesn’t weigh one down.
I would rate it 3.5* out of 5
This book has been reviewed by a fellow Book Buzzer- Dr. Shivani Salil.
Amazon link of the book – https://amzn.to/2ZmKstA