I received this book for free from Mr. Nair in exchange for an honest review.
Nair’s collection has brought back the joy of reading short stories for me, and I plowed through the entire book in one sitting. A collection of 14 short stories, Nair wittingly explores Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures in short and impactful bursts, with topics widely varied such as murder, U.S. green-card wedding, superstitions, and cultural transformation.
In this short story collection, Nair wrote 14 short stories with varied length. The shortest one, “iPad,” is only 3 pages long, while the longest ones, “A Perfect Murder” and “Salma’s Fate,” are 25 pages. “iPad” is actually my favorite of the collection: I cried after reading it. It touches on the delicate interaction between the traditional Indian culture and the modern technology of the States, and it’s short and impactful. Another favorite one of mine is “The Lost Son,” about two friends who have known each other for 60 years, and how their relationship strains and strengthens over time due to family and business issues. I like Nair’s choices of topics in the short stories in general. None of them were ever repetitive, but they all talk about the clash between Eastern and Western cultures in many facets. I also like how Nair deals with delicate topics such as rape and infidelity, though I wish he could include a rape warning for one of the stories.
Nair has a casual writing style, like an old storyteller sitting a long-time friend down to retell all of these crazy stories. The syntax is simple, and the sentence structure is easy to follow. Nair is also very witty, and I laughed a lot of times reading the small and short deliveries he writes. I personally like that clean and concise style, so it carries me through the book seamlessly.
Because I received a proof copy, there were a lot of grammar mistakes in the book. None of them were hugely impactful, but there were enough that dampened my enjoyment of the book a little. It’s a shame, because the content is so good that I don’t want faulty proofreading to be what brings down the rating of the book. Nair also partially explains the Middle Eastern/Hindi phrases in the collection: some phrases he does put in notes for, some don’t. It’s a consistency issue, but things can be understood with a little Googling. I do appreciate his expositions for several sections in the Indian law.
All in all, a short but really enjoyable read. It gives me a better insight into the lives of Middle Eastern, Indian and Indian-American cultures, and I hope it gives other readers that joy, too.
I really like the style of the author. Most of the stories in the book left me wanting more. I think a few of them have potential to be novels on their own. Would recommend to anyone.
Very well written book of short stories. I breezed through the book of 14 stories.
The stories have mixed bag of emotions – humor, revenge, love and sadness. The author has a natural and easy writing style that helps you understand the plot.
Some of the stories have a deep underlying message and I found some stories to be informative too. I would recommend this any day. I only wished there were more stories.
BOUQUET OF GENRES
A Perfect Murder and Other Stories by S.R Nair is more like a potpourri of different genres, rather than one theme. Starting with a murder mystery where the murderer gets away with a crime in the opening story A Perfect Murder, Mr. Nair has set the tone of the novel as an interesting, unusual and a very gripping read. Lust and greed form the background of the story as we see the innocent Hiten going towards his doom. His roving eye lands him in a bad situation. You cannot but praise the ingenuity of this crime and have all your sympathy with the actual murderer. As A Perfect Murder showcases a woman in all her seductive avatar, in the next one Mr. Nair introduces Salma.
Salma’s Fate will leave you with a bad taste as you watch with horrific fascination how a man can murder all relationships just to satisfy his lust. Rape by itself is an ugly word, but when such a heinous crime is committed by someone whom you call your father, this crime has no pardon. And while we are saluting the courage of Salma, Mr. Nair changes the mood completely and introduces, Hira Bai.
In the story iPad, Hira Bai represents the age of innocence. A breather, after the two intense stories. iPad has a lot of emotions but they are that of innocence and love. Where an old and poor woman is ready to sell all that she possesses- just to buy an iPad. Her reason for wanting one will touch your heart.
Mr.Nair has one factor appearing in most of the stories. Immigrants. Indians living in the Middle East and the USA are the main characters of his stories. And in Koya’s Story, he touches the biggest fear that many immigrants have – what if we never return home again? Heart-touching.
Seema brings out a bit of positivity again when Seema, the protagonist, is a victim of a social media mishap. You cannot call the perperator a “social media troll” since he knew her from a long time. A weakling and a fool maybe. But the way Seema’s fiancé, Gautam, stands by her, makes you believe in love again.
She had accepted the abuse as her due and now paid it forward with compounded interest to her daughter-in-law.
This is one profound line from the story The Grandson. To what length we would go to have a son. Lata’s mom is a classic example of that. If you read the above lines you will see that the author has nailed it. What one experiences as a daughter-in-law, one passes on to the next generation as a mother-in-law. While as a mother, Kanta is blind to her son’s amorous behavior, I found it acutely funny that she extended the same thing to her daughter-in-law as her need for a grandson was intense. Again I feel that the author has given the story a fitting end.
I have a small peeve with this story. Since the topic is that of respecting a girl child, why was the girl child who was actually present in the story not given any importance? Just one scene that would indicate that the author actually remembered her? Like it was done in The Stolen Child.
When Safiya finds out that her blood is not matching with her parents, she starts thinking about her real parents. She meets a lady who had been attacked by her own son and is now in a trauma ward. Do they have a connection? This story had a truly fitting end to this theme.
In an anthology, rarely will you find all the stories written with an equally strong voice. Mr. Nair’s voice faltered a bit in The Missing Wife. While a reader will be sucked into the tale to find the missing Geeta, but the straight path the author has adopted to write this story does not give too much scope for guessing. It’s a tale of deceit and lies told in a simple manner. The author could have used some strong incidents to heighten the curiosity factor in this story like he had done in A Perfect Murder.
Mr. Nair takes away my complaint of too much placidity in his next one aptly named Seduced. I don’t know whether to laugh or sympathize with Adi in this story. This one reminded me of an anecdote from the Bollywood movie, Dil Chahta Hai. How we develop a friendship with strangers is very important. Adi thought he would get free sex with a British lady. What happens is a series of funny anecdotes (not so funny for Adi) But at the end of the story, I could not but think that it served Adi right. Didn’t it?
Total Eclipse has one of the most uncalled for ending. Ramu, who is an ordinary laborer, works very hard to keep his wife and dog happy. He has some grief hidden in his heart which he could never tell anyone. So on the day of the eclipse, he does such a cruel act that brings out many secrets. But Total Eclipse left me with many questions. How did Ramu find out the truth and what happens to the characters after the secret is out. But I can assure you that the ending is the least expected one.
In Visa for America, we see another age old question arising. When someone marries a green card holder or citizen of USA, what is the real motive? Is it for marriage or going to the USA? Sam met Sandhya through a matrimonial site. After reaching the USA, she goes missing, leaving a note in which she states that she is in love with someone else and that she had only married Sam to get to come to the US. So what happens to Sam? Does he get the love of his life back and if he does can he really forgive her?
Visa for America has some unconnected dots. There is a mention about Sandhya’s parents and yet that which is supposed to form a crucial part of the story is widely neglected. As in the case of many of the short stories that you find in anthologies, many such small things are often left unsaid, leaving much to the imagination of the readers.
If I had to choose one story which I did not like, that would be The Soothsayer. It’s a story told over generations and it had nothing much to offer. Attukal Ravikrishnan was an astrologer, whose prediction could never go wrong. Now this astrologer read his own chart and came to the conclusion that he would die in a road accident. From that time onwards he had imposed a self-curfew and refused to go out of the house in any vehicle. So now the question is will he be able to prove his own prediction wrong or death has a way of finding you even when you are hiding from it?
If the characters were more involved with each other it would have made a wider impact. Or why the astrologer is behaving in a peculiar way is revealed to the family members as a mystery, it would have made more of an impact. After reading the above stories written by Mr. Nair, I expected more.
Moving on, I did not quite understand what the title The Lost Son had to do with the story. It was a story about friendship. But the title shows that it had more to do with Ram becoming what he had become. While that is not the nucleus of the story, I could not quite place the title along with the story. It is a story about a Hindu and a Muslim, whose friendship transcends over time and many riots. But when they enter into the business world, the failure of one and the success of the other bring the crack in their friendship. Soon small incidents join up and how they part and make their way back to each other forms a beautiful story.
And the winner is Zubair. I enjoyed this story thoroughly. If the author had planned that the readers would close the book with a smile, he has succeeded. The feminist in me cheered for Sahana as she adapted to the lifestyle of USA. What brought a smile on my face was the reaction Zubair was having. I could almost imagine Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval in this role. I think I can truly call this my favorite in the lot.
Crisp writing and the free flow of the stories make this anthology a wonderful read.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
If you like stories that bring out the basic human characteristics and make you feel emotional – this one is a taker.
LINE THAT STAYED WITH ME
The kindly gentleman suggested that he write to the Honorable Prime Minister of India and helpfully provided him with the mailing address in New Delhi. Zubair was not sure whether writing to the Prime Minister would help. Nevertheless he planned to write to the Prime Minister. He had nothing to lose.
I couldn't stop laughing.
About the reviewer: Rubina Ramesh is an erratic writer and a passionate reviewer. Her reviews have found space in international magazines like Global Asia. She has co-authored three anthologies, Writing from the Heart, Long and Short of It and Marijuana Diaries. Founder of The Book Club, an online publicity group she finds her passion in promotion of books and authors.