Paying attention is particularly challenging for me when I am reading a book. It’s one of the steep ADHD mountains I always struggle to climb. Although I have got better at it over the years, there was a time I only picked up a book on certain days when the WIFI was down, the weather was gloomy, and my coffee was hot. Else, I used to read one paragraph over and over again, until I fell in the deep chasms of my own fantasy, where things were easy to understand and made more sense than a Murakami novel.

To be honest, it’s not always my fault. I do sometimes pick up really bad novels at the airport. The impulsive buyer inside me is more of a superstitious imposter. He thinks, if he doesn’t purchase a book at the airport and start reading it straightaway while standing in the boarding line giving commoners a complex, then somehow the plane will crash and it will all be his fault. The only pertinent things post the crash will be the black-box and his unfulfilled remorseful desires to read a book hovering over it.

So, I am reading that novel, alright. I am paying attention for say, some good thirty-seven seconds. During this time, the whole world around me has ceased to exist. It’s just me and my breath, and of course the cologne of these words sprinkled over these pages. I don’t feel any eyes on me and nothing distracts me at all. You could strip me down, doodle a penis on my face, and stuff my pet in an oven and turn it on and I wouldn’t pay attention. However, on the thirty-eighth second, something happens. Maybe the author uses the word, “suddenly”, to describe an expected set of mundane events. It throws me off. I suddenly stop reading it.

If you ask me, any story could do without the word “suddenly”. Nothing should happen – suddenly. We don’t need that word at all. I suddenly realized that. John doesn’t suddenly need to walk inside the room, sit down on his green couch and leave the door ajar. Too much of foreplay makes me sleep with my eyes open. Let’s get on with the fellatio already. Plus, there is so much fat in a sentence like that, I could take it for a jog, or make it a “before” picture in a fitness commercial. I mean, cut out the irrelevant details and give me just the bones and flesh Mr. Author. Start with getting rid of the word, “suddenly”. The belly fat of all the fats. Let John enter the room normally, but again, don’t mention the word “normally” either.  Unless of course you have told me before that John is a habitual dancer and a hardcore nudist. So he likes to moonwalk into the room butt-naked from time to time. Also, remove the “down” bit. John doesn’t want to stand “up” on the couch. Does he? That’s just awful manners. His mom would be furious. And why does John have a green couch in the first place? Who the fuck has a green couch? Not me! I have a beige couch with disgusting patches of green on the corners of it. Or as the eloquent mouths who are supremely anal about colour gradients and their respective made-up fancy names have told me, “these are moss green patches”, followed by my perplexed look and a quizzical “huh?”, followed by their explanation, “it’s fungus, dude!”

Anyway, so John sat on his couch. That’s how much I needed to know. It’s now fat free. I can understand what the hell is going on and I have paid minimum attention to it. Great! But I have a question; why is John sitting? Doesn’t this guy have a job to do, like the rest of us? So, cut out the “sitting” bit too. Now you’re just left with John. There you go! There is John and that’s all. That’s all I needed to know. Keep it to the point. Catch my attention using the least amount of words. Artistic-descriptive creative writing is great but shred the fat for me and that would save me from analysis-paralysis. What I mean to say is, I am a consumer and you’re a brand. You’ve approximately nine seconds to grab my attention or else, I am on to the next one, in which case, I am also like Jay-Z.

Review: Then She was Gone

**This review has spoilers**

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is a thriller about a fifteen-year-old girl Ellie Mack, who one fine day disappears without a trace, scarring and disorienting a family that never recovers from it. The story (for the most part) is told from the perspective of Ellie’s mother Laurel and her obsession to find her beloved daughter even after ten years.

That’s it!

That’s all you need to know get to started!

Oh, and also the fact that Ellie was Laurel’s favourite child and that she has two other children; her daughter Hanna with whom Laurel has a love hate relationship, and her son Jake (or Jack?). I forgot his name because he isn’t that important, just like his hippie girlfriend Blue who sees auras (blah!) in people isn’t important or needed. They both can be omitted from the plot and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Once the police investigations are over and Laurel has her closure (Yup she attends Ellie’s funeral. Sorry for the spoiler but there was a disclaimer, so … *shrugs*) she runs into a mysterious yet a charming (of course), handsome (of course), witty (of course) eloquent (of course), writer slash mathematician slash divorced parent of another girl who reminds Laurel of her own daughter.

That’s where the flesh and the bone of the story is and that’s how it is marketed.  Although, what’s left out, for obvious reasons, is the mention of Noelle Donnelly. She’s an Irish, lonely, virgin. Those three things are not always mutually inclusive, trust me! So anyway, she is a virgin at the age of forty one. AT FORTY ONE! AT FORTY ONE! Let that sink in. She was also Ellie’s tutor, had a difficult upbringing (seven brothers, one sister who died, has hard time making friends, conservative family, all that. You get the picture?) She is definitely an interesting character in this book.

Then there are other vanilla characters like Paul (Laurel’s ex-husband), his wife, Floyd’s ex-wife and Noelle’s nephews and Ellie’s boyfriend Theo (who later becomes Hana’s boyfriend).

There are also two interesting characters, both are Floyd’s daughters from their ex-wives. The elder one is from his first wife. She is named Sarah Jade, but she calls herself SJ, because why not? She is also an anorexic, artsy, nudist, with an unconventional outlook towards life, because again, why not? But most importantly there is Poppy, she is Noelle and Floyd’s daughter, or so we are told as readers. What we are also told is that she has an uncanny resemblance with Ellie Mack but she is younger, if you keep a tab on the timeline of different events. If not, she would appear about the same age as Ellie and it will be more confusing and you would hate the novel, might re-read certain chapters, and until you finish it, you’d be confused AF.

Poppy is SO much like Ellie that everyone finds it weird yet no one questions it. Even though there are red flags all around her; she was homeschooled, doesn’t have a mother, she is a prodigy of sorts like Ellie. She even has the same candles that were missing form a set that Ellie had (Now that’s something fishy, right?)

See how it is all tied together?

The whole thing is so well twisted and engineered for a thriller that you want to believe your instincts but you keep second guessing until you finish the book and realise you were close.  You were close, but you did not nail it, because there are things that don’t sit well with rationality, as is the case with a lot of novels. Artificial insemination with 100% success rate, fake pregnancy, incompetent police force. *Coughs*

Now, is this a well written book? Are there things that make it an enjoyable read? Of course, duh!

Even though it is marketed as a thriller, in certain pockets, it becomes an intense drama of sorts. It thematically explores the relationships across genders and generations. It’s a tale of sacrifices, obsession, jealousy and indifference, between mothers and daughters, wives and husbands and their exes, between sisters, between step sisters, between broken families and broken homes and ultimately how it all impacts and shapes the society that we live in.

So while the thriller aspect takes the front seat, it’s the exchange of emotions between different characters that are somehow intertwined into one single large family that drives the story. Surprise, surprise, that’s what I loved about the book!

The scene where Laurel tells her dying mother Ruby that she will be back next week to see her, but if she doesn’t, she should know that she had been a great mother, was as impactful as the scene where Laurel finally accepts Hanna. She doesn’t consider her a consolation prize anymore and that’s where her entire arc of being a selfish uncaring and biased parent to an accepting mother gets completed. That’s the most cheerful moment in this rather arduous heart-breaking tale.  

There are also quite possibly subtle but intentional parallels between characters and where they are in the story. For instance, while Ellie evidently has a  Stockholm Syndrome towards Noelle, you also can’t ignore how Noelle feels about Floyd and how she feels grateful for everything he does. That’s kind of Stockholm Syndromish, right?  Maybe I am reaching, but …. but … there are definitely these deliberate nuggets of imagination that the writer has woven into the story and as a result there seems to be this invisible but common thread that runs through various characters and their circumstances. That’s powerful writing.

Now the book is broken down into multiple POVs. Or as I like to call it, my pet-POVs. Ha! I joke! I joke!

No seriously, I did not like it, but I get it. I GET IT!

And did I say, I did not like it?

Alright, I get it because this approach is easy to understand, is one of the easiest ways to communicate the story, without screwing up the timeline or bringing out the different perspectives. But why did it have to be 1st person narration for multiple characters? Why couldn’t the Author take an omniscient POV? The author knows everything, right? Right?

But again, I get it, it’s a thriller, that’s how it is done. That seems to be the popular choice. Fair enough!

Then again, as a reader, I feel like I read two different books with the same plotline. The first part was descriptive, nuanced, a lot of showing, all the good things about a great book. The second half, was full of body blows. Bam! Bam! Cut to the chase narration, a lot of telling. Telling about everything. Then telling of the telling! No guesswork. Just tying all the loose ends together haphazardly. By the way, Floyd’s leaving video message on the computer was just not good writing. Sorry if anyone thought that was a great idea. But once again, I know, and I understand, that it could very well have been an editor’s choice and the writer didn’t have much say in slicing and dicing it in so many ways to make it presentable.

All little criticisms aside, it’s a fast paced, thoroughly entertaining, rarely has a dull-moment, kind of a book.

So if you want to read a book about a girl stalking a girl (there aren’t a lot of novels on those lines, are there?), let alone a girl stalking a younger girl that she is not romantically attracted to, or if you are at the airport, or plan to be at the airport, and if airports are still a thing, you can definitely grab this book, because that’s what it is – an airport thriller, with it’s own set of flaws, but won’t let you nod off.

The Case of the Punctual Phantom

‘The Case of the Punctual Phantom and other silly stories’ is a collection of humorous short stories that capture the craziness and comedy of contemporary Indian life.

The case of the Punctual Phantom and other silly stories

A young man attends a job interview for the umpteenth time, a writer eavesdrops on a conversation at a pizzeria. A social butterfly tries hard to keep her clique under control, a disgruntled mother gives her honest opinion of motherhood. A bunch of boys in a hostel scare an unwanted roommate away, a busy working woman runs for president in her apartment complex out of need. A young employee makes a risky move in office politics, a young girl who is being blackmailed uncovers the identity of her blackmailer. A successful businesswoman is forced to marry a dog by her street smart mother-in-law and a fake psychic tries to exorcise a real ghost.

This collection is about ordinary people dealing with the tantrums that life throws at them and being able to nod their heads and smile along the way. We are sure you will relate to the characters in this collection and will definitely chuckle along with them.

Click Here to read a free sample!

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