by Neil D'Silva
I am very American, and I mean that in the worst sense possible. I know enough about other cultures to realize that I'm pretty dumb. I couldn't tell you where anything is geographically located. If you actually put a map in front me, I'd be able to find North America and Italy. Maybe.
So, when I was asked to review this book, I agreed but I let D'Silva know that the only things I know about Indian culture I learned from Tears of Kali and Singham. I let him know that, and he let me know that he was particularly interested in knowing what a dumb American might think of book (he did not say "dumb American", he is incredibly nice and polite).
I was honestly really not sure what to expect going into this, but I'm so glad I read it.
The book is a horrific love story. Maya, a widowed biology teacher, finds herself falling for the arts teacher, Bhaskar, despite the fact that he's awkward, kind of ugly, and smells weird. But, obviously, he isn't all he appears to be. A failed Aghori, he feeds on human flesh.
So, the bad first. It's not a perfect book. I'm not really sure if the issues are cultural or linguistic differences, which makes it a bit difficult. I did talk to D'Silva about language and he explained to me that they speak English differently there. Which, I totally believe because everywhere that English is spoken, it's spoken differently. But, the result is that the writing feels clunky at times. Like, I feel like he should use a pronoun and he uses the proper noun instead. There are also several moments of repetition, being told the same thing we just learned, several times.
It also seems like the story starts a bit too early. We're a third of the way through the book before they even like each other.
More than once, I thought the characters should really just call the police, but then I had to remind myself that I have no idea what the police are like there. So, maybe that's just not a thing they do.
But, the good is good. There are some incredibly creepy scenes. The same language that makes some scenes seem awkward and strange also weaves together some truly frightening descriptions. I loved reading about the Aghori and the traditions of the faith.
The characters are engaging. It was really great to read a book with a mostly female cast that were all likable. They gossiped, talked about sex, loved each other, and felt real. Even when they fell apart, it seemed like an authentic emotional event, not something that was happening because they were weak or female.
I would definitely recommend this book, though I would let the reader know about my issues. I had a hard time deciding between 3 or 4 stars, but, in the end, chose to give the author the benefit of the doubt.
*I was given a free copy of the book to review.