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Book Nook - 05-02-2019

Tuesday, February 05, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

The Perils Of Wellness
Bestselling author Liane Moriarty, whose book Little Big Lies was turned into an award-winning series, has come out with her new novel, Nine Perfect Strangers.

Set in a pricey boutique wellness resort in Australia, called Tranquillum House, the book takes a look at the dodgy business that promises to transform lives in ten days. It is a given that the people who sign up for these health resorts have some problem in their lives. The domineering woman, Masha Dmitrichenko, who runs the resort with an iron hand, seems to know which strings to pull to make her clients feel better—physically and emotionally. Assisting her in running the resort are the impressionable former paramedic Yao, and the shrewd Delilah, who knows more than she is willing to let on.

There are nine clients at the swanky spa that promises a life-altering experience with a mix of yoga, massage, diet control, fasting, digital detox and “noble silence.” The only thing they have in common is that they can afford the high fee at the luxury resort, located in a beautiful heritage mansion in a remote area.

Romance author Frances Welty in her fifties, has just been scammed by a man she befriended on the net, the sales of her books are plummeting, her last manuscript has been rejected by her publisher and she has developed a back problem. Fond of wine, chocolates and the good life, Frances is a bit taken aback by the strict discipline at the resort and indignant when the food and drink she has smuggled in is confiscated, but she is willing to be open-minded about the experience. When her life is at rock-bottom, she has nothing much to lose.

She is the one fully-developed character in the book, though the others are interesting too--- the truculent, overweight sports management consultant, a young couple that won a fortune in a lottery and find their marriage unraveling, a shattered divorcee and mother of four, a couple with their teenage daughter coping with the suicide of their son, and a gay resort junkie.

With some difficulty, they manage the routine of getting up at the crack of dawn for meditation and exercise, they put up with the fasting and frugal healthy diet, but when things start going wrong, their individual strengths and weaknesses are revealed. The prologue has Masha going down with a heart attack, and the book then returns to her past, her radical metamorphosis, her ideas and dubious methods much later in the book; and, in spite of all she does wrong, she is quite a remarkable woman.

Nine Perfect Strangers is an entertaining read that also questions the belief of people in quick-fix solutions to their problems; wellness professionals make a fortune out of their doubts, fears and lack of self-awareness.

Nine Perfect Strangers
By Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Flatiron
Pages: 457

 

Excerpt of  Nine Perfect Strangers
On a hot, cloudless January day, Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, drove alone through scrubby bushland six hours north-west of her Sydney home.

The black ribbon of highway unrolled hypnotically ahead of heras the air-conditioning vents roared arctic air full-blast at her face. Thesky was a giant deep blue dome surrounding her tiny solitary car. There was far too much sky for her liking.

She smiled because she reminded herself of one of those peevish TripAdvisor reviewers: So I called reception and asked for a lower, cloudier, more comfortable sky. A woman with a strong foreign accent said there were no other skies available! She was very rude about it too! NEVER AGAIN. DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY.

It occurred to Frances that she was possibly quite close to losing her mind.

No, she wasn’t. She was fine. Perfectly sane. Really and truly. She flexed her hands around the steering wheel, blinked dry eyes behind her sunglasses and yawned so hugely her jaw clicked.

“Ow,” she said, although it didn’t hurt.

She sighed, looking out the window for something to break the monotony of the landscape. It would be so harsh and unforgiving out there. She could just imagine it: the drone of blowflies, the mournful cry of crows, and all that glaring white-hot light. Wide brown land indeed.

Come on. Give me a cow, a crop, a shed. I spy with my little eye something beginning with …

N. Nothing.

She shifted in her seat, and her lower back rewarded her with a jolt of pain so violent and personal it brought tears to her eyes.

“For God’s sake,” she said pitifully.

The back pain had begun two weeks ago, on the day she finally accepted that Paul Drabble had disappeared. She was dialling the number for the police and trying to work out how to refer to Paul – her partner, boyfriend, lover, her ‘special friend’? – when she felt the first twinge. It was the most obvious example of psychosomatic pain ever, except knowing it was psychosomatic didn’t make it hurt any less.

It was strange to look in the mirror each night and see the reflection of her lower back looking as soft, white and gently plump as it always had. She expected to see something dreadful, like a gnarled mass of tree roots.

She checked the time on the dashboard: 2.57pm. The turn-off should be coming up any minute. She’d told the reservations people at Tranquillum House that she’d be there around 3.30 to 4pm and she hadn’t made any unscheduled stops.

Tranquillum House was a ‘boutique health and wellness resort’. Her friend Ellen had suggested it. “You need to heal,” she’d told Frances after their third cocktail (an excellent white peach Bellini) at lunch last week. “You look like shit.”

Ellen had done a ‘cleanse’ at Tranquillum House three years ago when she, too, had been ‘burnt out’ and ‘run-down’ and ‘out of condition’ and – “Yes, yes, I get it,” Frances had said.

“It’s quite … unusual, this place,” Ellen had told Frances. “Their approach is kind of unconventional. Life-changing.”

“How exactly did your life change?” Frances had asked, reasonably, but she’d never got a clear answer to that question. In the end, it all seemed to come down to the whites of Ellen’s eyes, which had become really white, like, freakily white! Also, she lost three kilos! Although Tranquillum House wasn’t about weight loss – Ellen was at great pains to point that out. It was about wellness, but, you know, what woman complains about losing three kilos? Not Ellen, that’s for sure. Not Frances either.

Frances had gone home and looked up the website. She’d never been a fan of self-denial, never been on a diet, rarely said no if she felt like saying yes or yes if she felt like saying no. According to her mother, Frances’s first greedy word was “more”. She always wanted more.

 

SHORT TAKES
Jobonomics India's Employment Crisis and What the Future Holds by Goutam Das looks at an issue that is in the news. According to the summary, “Although India's economy is growing at a steady clip of over 7 per cent a year, job creation is far short of where it needs to be. At the same time, most Indians who are employed are stuck in jobs that don't pay well. Hidden in this tangle is not just a crisis of productivity and skills, but also a lack of employment opportunities for the country's teeming millions.
“If the issues miring both demand and supply in the job market are not addressed urgently, we are looking at an economy in which over 20 crore people will be in 'bad jobs' or even without jobs by 2025. Why are Indian companies not creating enough jobs? Why do small companies remain small? Will bots take over today's jobs, from the shop floor to the back office? What will salaries of the future look like? Why have successive governments failed in their promises to create more jobs that pay well?

Goutam Das explores these questions and more, in this engaging narrative that documents the real stories of workers of all shades across India, from Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu to Gurugram in Haryana, highlighting the social and political consequences of unemployment and underemployment. Presenting astute analyses of the current and future trends in India's job market, this timely book points to the path forward and underlines the human potential we can tap into to turn the tide.”

Jobonomics India's Employment Crisis and What the Future Holds
By Goutam Das
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 320


 
Ashwin Sanghi and Kiran Manral have written a readable and useful book on parenting. Says the summary, “A wise man once said, ‘before i got married, i had six theories about bringing up children. Now i have six children and no theories.’

“In this age of hyper-information, parenting is much like tap-dancing in a minefield. There was a time when parents had nothing to draw from except for their experiences with their own parents. But today, there is information overload and conflicting advice from multiple ‘experts’.

How are parents to navigate this jungle of counsel and still retain their sanity?

The short answer: common sense. 13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting uses wit and prudence to show that parenting is not an exercise in theories but about learning on the job. In the patented, no-frills style of the 13 Steps series, the book cuts right through the din of information and advice.

Parenting is a huge responsibility. With 13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting, it can become a more thoughtful and enjoyable one.”

13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting
By Ashwin Sanghi and Kiran Manral
Publisher: Westland
Pages: 184



In the 13 Steps series is Ashwin Sanghi and Dr Mukesh Batra’s book on health. According to the summary, “It is tragic that we get old too soon and wise up to life too late. There’s so much we could—and should—have done to get to this point in better shape. The question is: what should we do now?

“But health remedies are dime-a-dozen, each one contradicting another. As an old Chinese proverb goes: ‘It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy.’ How does one negotiate that tricky terrain?

“This book has all the answers. In the patented, no-nonsense style of the 13 Steps series, it brings together scientifically sound advice in a non-judgemental course-correction guide. 13 Steps to Bloody Good Health is an easy, doable path to good health—step by step.”

13 Steps to Bloody Good Health
By Ashwin Sanghi & Dr Mukesh Batra
Publisher: Westland
Pages: 200

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