The eight stories in this wonderful collection will sneak up on you – so perfectly curated are they that you will find yourself carried away to a time and a place as evocative and immersive as if you were lost in the pages of a full-length novel.
Very reminiscent to me of the haunting works of Rohinton Mistry and the cross-cultural angst of Neil Bissoondath (two of my very favorites), in this book author Silmy Abdullah weaves multi-textured characters who are struggling with grief, loss, loneliness, and alienation; caught between the restrictions and expectations of two very different cultures – in this case, Toronto, Canada (my hometown) and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Although the stories do not directly intersect, each perfect little gem opens the door on a world inhabited by characters who could very well be neighbors, each of them carrying the stamp of their deeply patriarchal Bengali upbringing, and its impact on their search for connectedness in a culture where arranged marriages, parental authority, and family obligations supersede any claim of the personal.
- In a “Good Family” we meet Shumi – who after being courted, married and spirited off to Toronto with her new husband Asif, who is himself a virtual stranger, finds herself completely adrift and achingly lonely in her alien surroundings.
“They (skinny jeans) seemed to be made for a girl who was made of sticks. She felt like she was suffocating when she put them on. Asif told her she looked beautiful”.
- In “All of the Adjustments”, (which is perhaps my very favorite in this collection), a young Dhaka widow, imprisoned by duty to care for her grieving in-laws, is challenged by her relationship with her new Canadian sister-in-law, a visitor (in the form of a free-spirited outsider) who unintentionally stirs up intense and complex emotions.
- In “Reflection”, a new Bengali bride, on her wedding day, steels herself to her new life with a man she does not know and who is not her love.
“Bengali brides can cry without any restraint on our wedding day, easily releasing all kinds of suppressed agony under the guise of that one pain we have absolute permission to fee, the pain of leaving our parents.”
I absolutely loved this book and am looking forward to reading more from this author.
A great big thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts expressed are my own.