Book Review, Books

Wonder – Book Review

   

When a friend recommended Wonder, first thing I asked was “Is it a happy book?” And she said “It’s sad at places but I loved reading it.”

Since I respect this friend a lot and value her opinion I picked this book, despite not having heard of it until her recommendation….. And I’m so glad I did.

Once in a while you come across a book that touches your soul and changes the way you think and behave. Wonder is exactly that kind of book. It’s a story of a 10 year old August Pullman who has rarest of rare genetic disorder which makes him look very different from others. People call him alien, freak and several other mean names. It is the story of his supportive family, his first year of going to a proper school, his journey of making friends, dealing with some enemies and facing the world bravely. It is also the story of his sister and friends and how they see him.

Yes, the story is sad at places because the world is not always a beautiful place and each one of us is shallow at some point or other, children sometimes say the meanest of things and as Mr. Tushman says in the book “sometimes you don’t have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone”, sometimes people hurt the unfortunate Auggie without really thinking about it. Actually I shouldn’t call him unfortunate because Auggie is anything but. He’s spunky, smart, funny, courageous and unlike many of us ‘normal’ people he can laugh at himself.

Wonder is a very honest book. The emotions, feelings and incidents that the author R.J. Palacio has written about are as real as they can be. Her writing is original and insightful, its funny and light yet deep and poignant. Its simply written yet touches your heart. The love and concern Auggie’s mother has for him is so understandable, you know it can’t be any other way. His father’s understated affection and humor warms your heart. The relationship between Auggie and elder sister Via is endearing and very believable. Via’s feelings are realistic and make her human. Summer and Jack are delightful in their typical 5th grader ways. Julian is…. well, he’s realistic too.

Palacio has done a brilliant job in writing about the struggles of parents wanting to stop coddling their son, teenage friends going through the tough high school phase, middle-schoolers stuck between being popular or being nice, and August wanting to live a normal life yet knowing how difficult it is with a face like his. All characters are so beautifully etched that you feel like pulling them out of the book and giving them a hug!

My mom smiled at me. Her smile kind of hugged me.

I especially liked how Palacio has written about Auggie’s life and feelings without making you feel a tinge of pity for him. No where you feel sorry for Auggie and his family. He may have a different life than others but he certainly doesn’t drown himself in misery. 

I also liked how the author has used different narrators throughout, it helps give different perspectives. When the story began with August as narrator I could only think about him, his challenges, his feelings but when Palacio wrote from Olivia’s point of view it was like a bulb suddenly went off in my head. I was so blinded by August’s life that I would never ever have thought about how it affected Olivia had the author not brought it up. In life also we often consider only one point of view (ours) and see things in singular perspective. If only we have someone to give us unbiased opinion from time to time in real life too, we’ll save ourselves many misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

I feel everyone should read this book because the lesson at the core of Wonder – kindness, is a virtue the world can use more of. 

Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed

I loved every moment of reading the book. It made me chuckle and sometimes brought a warm smile, it made me feel a little sad and sometimes it made me angry, I felt happy so often and so often it made me cry. The end is especially good, words were blurring as I read Mr. Tushman’s speech and the account of what followed. I felt a tingle in my nose and there was a constriction in my throat but it was a happy feeling, truly heart warming. It is a Wonder-ful book, one that taught me a thing or two about parenting and life in general, a book I would talk about to a lot of people and urge them to read it, a book I would want to re-read and would want my children to read too when they are old enough.

Truly a gem. Don’t miss the little dude, he’s cool beans! 

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-A

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Book Review, Books

Mrs Funnybones – Book Review 

  

As I was nursing the blues after reading a depressing psycho thriller, a friend suggested I read Mrs Funnybones to lighten my mood.

For those of you who don’t know, Mrs Funnybones is a collection of memoir-like blogs by Twinkle Khanna (yes, the very same wife-of-superstar-AkshayKumar Twinkle Khanna). The book is easy on the mind, sometimes witty and humorous at places, but it’s not the laughing-out-loud sort of funny. 

I liked how Twinkle has tried to connect with the readers by writing about the common challenges of most women in their 30s and early 40s – managing kids (one of whom is a baby), running a house, maintaining cordial relationship with the mother-in-law, working at office or running a business, school related activities, dealing with own parents, trying to lose the last few pounds and a lot more. Despite being a celebrity wife and much much more privileged than most of us she talks about the ordinary things most wives and mothers feel and experience on a daily basis making her feel one of us. I also liked how she didn’t make a big hoopla about how grand her life is and has purposely kept the glamor away. The way she has addressed Akshay Kumar as ‘Man of the House’, her son as ‘The Prodigal Son’ and daughter as ‘The Baby’ makes you feel that it’s really not about Twinkle Khanna the celebrity, but about Twinkle Khanna the woman of 21st century with her various hats.

Despite all the positives the book doesn’t really feel like a book. It’s a collection of blogs and it’s just that. All entries are independent of each other and not even in the right chronological order. While it works well for some it didn’t work well for me because I like reading stories. If I wanted to read a blog I would have picked from thousands of blogs available online and not bought this book. This lead me to question the popularity of Mrs Funnybones. Though it’s a decent light read it certainly is overrated, possibly because of Twinkle’s celebrity status or because people picked it with the hope of getting a peek into the lives of a star couple.

For those who hope for the latter it is a treat indeed. It was interesting to read about her special bond with her pre-teen son, her endearing chemistry with her super star husband and her love and hate relationship with her mother and mother-in-law. One will surely see Twinkle beyond the pathetic heroine of Mela, Joru Ka Ghulam and the likes and infact respect her as a woman of substance.

My verdict is that it’s a decent quick read but if you miss this you won’t miss much!

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

– A

Life, Mundane musings

Dare to Dream! (Part 2)

So Aunty called and he recognized her, and thus began their friendship. They talked often and Aunty tried to attend all his concerts because that’s the only way they could see each other. He used to send VIP passes to her and couple of times they rode to the concert venue together. He also introduced Aunty to his close friends including a famous poet who often accompanied him to the concerts. Since he had separated from his wife and Aunty was in the middle of a divorce herself their meetings continued to fuel the fire in their hearts.

Once Aunty was visiting Mumbai for a family function and hoped to meet the singer. Since he was busy and Aunty had a short trip he invited Aunty to a launch party he had to attend. Aunty excused herself from the family function and went to see him with Tinki in tow in total filmy style. He spent lot of time with Aunty and Tinki despite being chased by a number of people. Even with the infrequent calls and brief rendezvous they had a chemistry that showed, and his attention at the launch party further made his interest in her very obvious to all present.

Unfortunately in 2007 the singer fell sick and had to be hospitalized. His wife came back to take care of him. She must have heard or sensed something as Aunty got to learn by the haughty looks the singer’s wife gave her at concerts thereafter. Once she even spoke rudely to Aunty when she had called for the singer and told her not to call again.

The gentle singer seemingly bowed down under his wife’s wishes and distanced himself from Aunty. He changed his phone number and didn’t meet her eye at concerts. Aunty had to call his poet friend (who remembered her of course, making Aunty believe that she wasn’t imagining things) to get hold of the new mobile number. The wife had tried to close all channels of communication but who can tame another person’s heart! His songs kept telling a different story, which gave Aunty hope and strength even while they were not in touch.

The singer held a concert in Aunty’s city, which is a smallish place and was probably holding his concert for the very first time. They were not talking those days and for some reason Aunty didn’t get to know about the event through other channels and missed it. She regretted it deeply when the singer passed away couple of weeks later, his concert at Aunty’s city being his last ever!

4 years ago when I woke up to the news of his passing I immediately thought about Aunty and had the urge to call and pay my condolences. I didn’t know in what emotional state she’d be. Even though they did not have a formal relationship, he was an integral part of her long before they met. And after her divorce she didn’t even feel guilty about her feelings for him, and encouragement from him only made them deeper and stronger.

Tum Hamare Nahin To Kya Gum Hai
Hum Tumhare To Hain Yeh Kya Kum Hai

Kuch rishton ki paribhasha nahi hoti. As the song goes “Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do…”

-A

Life, Mundane musings

Dare to Dream! (Part 1)

Have you ever had a crush on a celebrity? Like a really huge crush on a big time celebrity? What will you say if you come face to face with them? How will you feel if this happens not once but more than a few times? Have you ever wondered what will happen if the celebrity shows a keen interest in you too, singling you out from millions of fans?

Impossible as this may sound, I have had the opportunity to see one such crazy dream come true almost effortlessly. And this post is about how love finds a way even in most unexpected ways, long after you have given hope of finding it.

I had a great friend at school, let’s call her Tinki. Tinki’s mom was very unconventional – she was fun, friendly, very understanding of our ‘crushes’ and mood swings and frankly talked about a variety of topics that other parents usually avoid. In short she was nothing like the other moms. We girls flocked around at Tinki’s home and loved to chat with aunty who always listened to our heartaches and sometimes offered us advice. 

Aunty was extremely fond of a ghazal singer and would listen to his songs all day every day. Maybe because Aunty was unhappy in her marriage or maybe because she did resonate with the singer’s compositions, she felt a deep connection with him. As we talked about cute guys in  school and our crushes Aunty would hum the songs from her favorite singer and joke about having a crush herself. 

After school Tinki and I went to college in different cities. As luck would have it, during a college function I learned that this particular singer is an alumni from my college itself and sometimes visited a close friend who lived in the university campus. The local photo studios proudly displayed pictures of him at the university concerts that he often participated in. Excitedly I shared this with Aunty when I met her during my next visit home. 

By this time Aunty had already had the opportunity to meet him when she went to attend one of his concerts. Though the event got cancelled because of rain, it proved as a blessing in disguise . Heartbroken at not being able to see him on stage Aunty and a bunch of Tinki’s friends had decided to hang out at the hotel the singer was staying, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. When the event management guys questioned Aunty had lied that she’s a relative and could get ahead of the queue of waiting fans. Desperate to see her long time crush and impatient with the knowledge that he’s just across the door Aunty had barged into the room where he was meeting local artists. She managed to have a brief conversation and was super duper happy. 

With her bold entry and candid conversation Aunty felt she had left an impression on the great ghazal maestro, stating his next music video proof enough. Infact through their decade long ‘friendship’ she saw glimpse of their story in his ghazals. Now who knows what had really inspired that certain music video and those numerous songs, for matters of the heat are often complex and who am I to question love’s mysterious ways!

“Bring me his phone number or address na Aparna. Ask your local friend, she may know where his friend lives. It’s such a small town afterall. Won’t you do this for your aunty.” She urged with good humor, and I complied.

A phone call to my local friend was enough to have her ride her scooty and locate the singer’s friend’s home. It wasn’t tough for he lived in the university campus as did my friend. Even if it was, my sweet friend never mentioned. That tiny paper containing his Mumbai address and his office phone numbers changed the course of her life, or so Aunty says.

Aisi Aankhen Nahin Dekhi

Aisa Kajal Nahin Dekha 

Aisa Chehra Nahin Dekha 

Aisa Dilbar Nahin Dekha 

Uske Kangan Ka Khanakna 

Jaise Bulbul Ka Chehakna 

Uske Pazeb Ki Cham Cham 

Jaise Barsaat Ka Mausam

A

Book Review, Books, Uncategorized

The Girl On The Train – Book Review 

Though I kept hearing about The Girl On The Train I never had the urge to read it, not until I happened to read the summary one day. It was intriguing and the book came highly recommended so I decided to read it. 

The book started slow… Very slow, and sort of depressing. The lead character describes railway tracks and things she sees around them and I couldn’t help but yawn and wonder how long before the story begins. Numerous times I felt like dropping it, yet I continued because I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I read on unwillingly and hated the grey gloomy feel of the story. 

The story is not even lukewarm until about half way and then it picks up pace. I was drawn not because I started liking the story but because I couldn’t guess the mystery. The plot gets complex and it’s sort of commendable given that there are only a handful of characters. The suspense is brilliant and keeps you guessing for a very long time. Things only get clearer towards the very end but it doesn’t give you the euphoric high of a solved mystery, there seems to be something missing.

I didn’t like the way the book was written. The language is bland and the story progresses as a simple narration of events – “she saw this and then she did that to which someone responded something”. I also found it very disturbing for some reason. Even before the flaws of the characters were revealed it made me uncomfortable and sad. All characters are troubled by something or the other, there’s not a single note of happiness in the entire book. In the beginning the author doesn’t talk about how the characters are feeling, as a result you don’t feel any connection with any of them. The main character is so pathetic that you don’t even feel sorry for her. You don’t feel sorry for anyone despite each one of them having something worth feeling sorry for! 

But even with the flaws I think the book does what it is supposed to do. It maintains suspense, makes you feel uneasy and in fact towards the end it made me feel scared even in my own home!! 

It is a good thriller for someone who likes this kind of books, but it certainly is not the kind of book I prefer reading. It was heavy and sad and made me wish I hadn’t read it. 

Read it if you like psycho thrillers.

Desperately looking for recommendations of a happy book to wash away the gloomy mood of this one!

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-A