“Tears pricked my eyes. There was absolutely nothing I could do. Stupid me to think I could make a difference. All I wanted to do was run outside. I went to kiss her goodbye but instead found myself trying one last time. The baby’s lips puckered; her face screwed up. She turned a deep red before letting out the most wonderful cry I had ever heard. The woman opened her eyes. Tears ran down her face as she reached out for her little girl. Pa looked from the baby to me and smiled. Half an hour later we climbed back into the car. ‘When I’m big, Pa, I want to be a healer just like you!’ He stroked my head and switched the radio back on.”
Author: Sonja Price Published: 2017 Pages: 222
This novel concerns the life of Jaya Vaidya. Jaya lives in Kashmir with her mother, father and two brothers; she wants to be a doctor like her father, but her mother does not want to encourage her to be so academic and thinks it best to concentrate on learning how to be a good wife. When Jaya goes to stay with some family friends in Delhi for a month there is a catastrophic earthquake in Kashmir with the death toll reaching over 20,00o, as far as she is told her family did not make it. Now, stranded with strangers who want to sell her as a wife to the highest bidder, Jaya’s only hope is a Scottish couple who knew her father years ago. Their kindness may be just enough for Jaya to escape her old life and begin a new one with hope of her achieving her dreams.
Firstly, something I found a little odd was the fact that the blurb contained basically the entire plot. This made the read a little disappointing as I already knew most of what was going to happen. However, I will try to write my review as if I didn’t have any prior knowledge of the plot, so it can be as as unbiased as possible.
Price wrote this book in first person, something I did not think I would enjoy, but as the novel developed, I actually found it quite insightful to see how various events affected Jaya. As a character, Jaya was likeable and plausible; I liked her journey from a shy sixteen year old to an older and more aware adult who was able to overcome most obstacles life threw at her. The Hamiltons were also extremely delightful, and while it is unrealistic to believe everyone is that nice, I would like to think everyone has a middle-aged Scottish couple ready to save them from life’s perils.
Price sheds light on some controversial issues in this book including arranged marriage and terrorism. The relationship Jaya has with her family before the earthquake starkly contrasts her relationship with her brother after she realises he is still alive. Her ability to still try to find some good in him, despite the monster he has turned into is a profound and important character trait for her and something I thought Price depicted nicely.
Irecently read All the Tomorrows which described the journey of a couple forced into an arranged marriage and how their lack of love makes everything fall apart. It was nice to then read something where the protagonist manages to escape from that before it all can go wrong.
The plot overall was mostly okay, again it was difficult to enjoy because I knew what was coming and perhaps there could have been a little more excitement, but I liked following Jaya’s journey. I think the reason I can’t give it a better rating is that I never felt connected or invested in the characters. I was interested in what was happening but I could easily put the book down and walk away – I think that speaks volumes.
Overall I thought this book was written well with sensitivity in all the right places, characters who were likeable and relatable even if their development was a little lacking, and a plot which made you realise that everything is achievable if you persevere.
Thank you to the author Sonja Price for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.