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Book Nook - 17-12-2018

Monday, December 17, 2018
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

No Roof In Sight
When there are promises of making America great again, a family in Barbara Kingslover’s Unsheltered, goes through the kind of financial crisis a middle-class person could suffer, anywhere in the world.

In one of the two interconnected stories, over a century apart, fifty-something Willa Knox, is told that her house is falling down, and it does not make sense to repair it. Willa, a journalist, no longer has a job after her magazine folded up, and she has come with her charming but clueless professor husband Iano Tavoularis, to live in this dilapidated house in Vineland, New Jersey, after the couple upped and moved for years chasing tenure in some university that would offer them stability.
The already precarious condition of the family is further strained, because her husband’s bed-ridden father, Nick, lives with them, his condition is getting worse, and their insurance package is inadequate for his medical needs. Then their daughter, Antigone aka Tig, returns from a stint in Cuba that she refuses to talk about; son Zeke, loses his wife, his job and home and moves back with his newborn son, expecting help and free childcare.

At an age when they should be planning for retirement, Willa and her husband slide down the ladder to a point where it feels like they are starting over from scratch. “It’s like the rules don’t apply anymore,” Willa says. “Or we learned one set, and then somebody switched them out.”

This family unit seems to personify what is wrong with contemporary America—Nick is a rabid right-winger, the opinionated but caring Tig is fiercely anti-capitalism, while Zeke, burdened with a huge debt and start-up dreams, still believes in the American dream.

The chapters of Unsheltered set in the 1870s, tell the story of impoverished school teacher, Thatcher Greenwood, who lived in the house that Willa moved into, and which was crumbling even back then. That was the time when an autocratic entrepreneur, Captain Charles Landis, founded what he hoped would be a Utopian community of Vineland, that he could control. Living across the street is Mary Treat, a self-taught naturalist, who conducts experiments at home and corresponds with Charles Darwin, whose ideas on evolution are causing ripples in the Church and its devout followers. Thatcher admires and befriends Treat (a real-life distinguished female scientist, rare in the 19th century), that does not go down well with his bigoted employer or his self-absorbed wife. There is no real connection between the two stories, except the house, but Kingsolver vividly writes about the problems—political, spiritual, intellectual and financial—between the two eras, and how two sets of people fight against seemingly hopeless circumstances. "Without shelter we stand in daylight," Mary Treat says to Thatcher Greenwood. Kingsolver's wonderful book makes the reader aware that everything the thinking person holds dear is in danger of collapsing, and seriously contemplate the need to build a society with ideas that are progressive, humane and inclusive.

Unsheltered
By Barbara Kingsolver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 480

 

Excerpt of  Unsheltered
“The simplest thing would be to tear it down," the man said. "The house is a shambles."She took this news as a blood-rush to the ears: a roar of peasant ancestors with rocks in their fists, facing the evictor. But this man was a contractor. Willa had called him here and she could send him away. She waited out her panic while he stood looking at her shambles, appearing to nurse some satisfaction from his diagnosis. She picked out words."It's not a living thing. You don't just pronounce it dead. Anything that goes wrong with a structure can be replaced with another structure. Am I right?""Correct. What I am saying is that the structure needing to be replaced is all of it. I'm sorry. Your foundation is nonexistent."Again the roar on her eardrums. She stared at the man's black coveralls, netted with cobwebs he'd collected in the crawl space. Petrofaccio was his name.

Pete. "How could a house this old have a nonexistent foundation?""Not the entire house. You see where they put on this addition? Those walls have nothing substantial to rest on. And the addition entails your kitchen, your bathrooms, everything you basically need in a functional house."Includes, she thought. Entails is the wrong word.One of the neighbor kids slid out his back door. His glance hit Willa and bounced off quickly as he cut through the maze of cars in his yard and headed out to the alley. He and his brother worked on the vehicles mostly at night, sliding tools back and forth under portable utility lights. Their quiet banter and intermittent Spanish expletives of frustration or success drifted through Willa's bedroom windows as the night music of a new town. She had no hard feelings toward the vehicle bone yard, or these handsome boys and their friends who all wore athletic shorts and plastic bath shoes as if life began in a locker room. The wrong here was a death sentence falling on her house while that one stood by, nonchalant, with its swaybacked roofline and vinyl siding peeling off in leprous shreds. Willa's house was brick. Not straw or sticks, not a thing to get blown away in a puff.The silence had extended beyond her turn to speak. Mr. Petrofaccio courteously examined the two mammoth trees that shaded this yard and half the block. Willa had admired the pair of giants out her kitchen window and assumed they were as old as the house, but hadn't credited them with a better life expectancy."I have no idea why someone would do that," he finally offered.

"Put up an addition with no foundation. No reputable contractor would do that."It did seem to be sitting directly on the ground, now that she looked, with the bottom courses of bricks relaxing out of rank into wobbly rows. A carapace of rusted tin roofing stretched over the gabled third floor and the two-story addition cobbled on the back, apparently in haste. Two tall chimneys leaned in opposite directions. Cracks zigzagged lightning-wise down the brick walls. How had she not seen all this? Willa was the one who raised her anxiety-shield against every family medical checkup or phone ringing after hours, expecting the worst so life couldn't blindside them. But she'd looked up contractors that morning with no real foreboding.

 

SHORT TAKES
Kintsukuroi, Mend It To Beautify It, “takes us to a journey where we meet the one we tend to take for granted, our own self. The beautiful title has a beautiful meaning too, embrace your flaws and find happiness. The story will make you feel connected to the protagonist's chaos, and will unfold a new understanding of your life’s own chaos. It is an easy flowing piece of work, that will make you realize who true friends are, who you must be for your own self and how important it is to mend the broken heart.  

Kintsukuroi: Mend It To Beautify It
By Kritansha Arora
Publisher: Evincepub,
Pages: 183



According to the synopsis of Dream Beyond Shadows, “In pursuit of this truth, the writer renounced his American dream of building a life in New York, to embark upon a journey to Peru, South America. During his odyssey he followed his calling to the depths of the Amazon Jungle and there he visited a shaman, and experienced the mystical healing powers of Ayahuasca, which launched him on a quest to uncover the deep-rooted purpose of his life, and inspired him to tell this story and serve his duty as a Messenger of the Jungle. This story does not derive from the writer’s imagination but from the writer’s actual experience, which has given him the opportunity to breathe freely for every second of his life, regardless of how deplorable a situation is. Tasting real freedom, even for a second, makes life worth living. This story is not an attempt to craft intellectual discussion, or to prove a point, nor to show others what inspired the writer to narrate the story. It is solely written for the seekers of this world, who need an affirmation that it is possible to discover their true path in life and then create their own reality based on their truth – as distinct from being controlled by a never-ending circle of desires.”

Dream Beyond Shadows
By Kartikeya Ladha
Publisher: White Falcon,
Pages: 280



Vivek Singh’s By the Flowing River is “about one man’s journey of survival and self-discovery after losing his job at the peak of his career. Being one of the most sought-after employees at the Eunited Bank, Siddharth is confident that nobody can take away his job. But it comes as a bolt from the blue when he is fired from his position of a portfolio manager. Directionless, Siddharth leaves everything and goes on a journey of self-realization and discovery that will transform his life forever. By the Flowing River, is a story of bouncing back from a sudden crisis and charting a path for a new life.”

By the Flowing River
By Vivek Singh
Ublisher: Pan Macmillan India,
Pages: 144


 


The summary of  Shreyans Kanswa’s Voice Of The Soul reads, “How does it feel to lie just by yourself and delve into the silence? The silence that is a path to deeper self, a self that is unexplored. That same unexplored self can also be regarded as the soul.  While the time ticks on the clock, a bond with your soul is timeless. Such metaphors are rendered powerless when a conversation is created with oneself. These poems mean more than just words, they scream soulfulness. It is rather weird that we go looking for answers outside when all that we have to do is seek deeper within ourselves. The poems are experiences that the poet shares with the world, and these experiences are nothing fancy- they are all moments that the poet experiences with himself. They are questions risen from inquisitiveness and introspection.”

Voice Of The Soul
By Shreyans Kanswa
Publisher - Writing Geeks ,
Pages: 120

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