This book is beautifully written and provides powerful food for thought throughout. It is, however, desperately upsetting and one of those books, like Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, which will make you appreciate just how fortunate you are – well it did to me.
Set in Mumbai during the political turmoil of the 1970’s, the story focuses on four people whose lives and fates become intricately tangled together due to the economic hardships that they each face.
“How can time be long or short? Time is without length or breadth. The question is, what happened during its passing. And what happened is, our lives have been joined together.”
The author, Rohinton Mistry, has created characters that will stay with me for a long time – I won’t forget this story. I won’t forget Ishvar and Om, who despite every horror, injustice, and loss they experienced, were still able to joke and support each other.
“You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.”
My least favourite character was Maneck, the college student from the mountains. Compared to the other protagonists, he encounters the least amount of adversity, yet he doesn’t live up to his full potential and ends up weak and bitter. It is the clever contrast between Maneck’s personality and Om and Ishvar’s, which highlights the fortitude of so many poverty stricken people who lived in India at this time.
“Did life treat everyone so wantonly, ripping the good things to pieces while letting bad things fester and grow like fungus on unrefrigerated food?”
Aside from the four main characters, there are lots of secondary people who really make this book. The crazy hair-collector, the complex beggar-master, the manipulative brother, the profound lawyer, the mysterious monkey-man … I could go on.
“In foreign countries they fear baldness. They are so rich in foreign countries, they can afford to fear all kinds of silly things.”
You may need to brace yourself before you read this book. Although the writing is stunning, it’s like a kick in the gut. I finished it about five days ago, and I’m still thinking about how sad it is.
“But now I prefer to think that God is a giant quiltmaker. With an infinite variety of designs. And the quilt is grown so big and confusing, the pattern is impossible to see, the squares and diamonds and triangles don’t fit well together anymore, it’s all become meaningless. So He has abandoned it.”