Life’s about swimming through an ocean of troubles, to reach the shore that soothes.
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 340; Price: Rs 550
‘So this was how it was. People entered your life. Some would stay. Some would not. Some would drift but would return to you.’ Marriages are those events that get ingrained into one’s mind from the time one is growing up.
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Girls grow up dreaming about their “happily ever after” while boys about their “princesses”. Even though the dynamics of the same is changing – with girls claiming to be their own superheroes and girls and guys preferring to travel the world rather than settling down with a family of their own – to some “marriage” still means what has often been popularized by popular media: a silhouette of a man and woman walking towards the sunset, holding hands. Troubles before marriage abound and often movies end with the hero and the heroine getting married.
Cut to reality, here’s “overtaxed and over-tired” Maribeth Klein – 44- year-old editor-in-chief of Frap, a new (and well-funded) celebrity lifestyle magazine. Maribeth, an adopted daughter, Jason’s wife, mother of a pair of pre-school going twins, works under Elizabeth, another ‘beth’, her one-time roommate and best friend. Jason left her when he was 22, only to return a decade later to give their story a continuation.
This is not just Maribeth’s tale but also of Jason, Elizabeth, Dr. Stephen, Todd and Sunita. It is a reflection of normal, everyday characters we meet in real life – an overworked mother, a lonely man, students living together to cut costs, little kids demanding time from their parents, a lady afraid of her adopted daughter running away in search of her real mother, a mother who gave away her daughter for some reason (alright, this might not seem too common in known circles) – with their own demons to fight and yet with a great sense of humor.
It is a much-required jolt for every working mother and has a very realistic portrayal of a woman who is so caught up with the details of her life that she finds it difficult to take things slow – even when she winds up on a hospital bed, without realizing that she suffered from a heart attack! Post a double bypass, she arrives back home only to find that her recuperation seemed like a punishment to her family.
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Even though physically healing, she finds herself to be drowning. And like what seems to be a great way to end all displeasure that one feels, a tempting fantasy – she escapes, by literally packing a bag and leaving home.
It’s when she is finally away from the demands of a family, a career and an overflowing inbox and after finding neighbors who become friends, a friendly doctor and a revisit to things she loved doing once upon a time, does she finally own up to her innate secrets.
In an ironical manner, from being a woman who can barely kick water with her knees bent in a swimming pool, she manages to swim four laps later (when many other things in her life seem to be falling back in order). It is a reflection of how she tries to swim through her life, irrespective of the water trying to get into her nose, mouth and ears – trying to drown her. However, will she manage to swim and reach the shore of her life which she didn’t even know existed?
This book is a much-needed reality check for all who are continuously running around in life in pursuit of some or the other thing. It makes one want to slow down and actually enjoy things rather than waiting for “the other shoe to drop”.
It’s an alarm clock of sorts – it wakes you up, kicks you right where it hurts most (what else does an alarm clock do but bring you back to reality from your dreams?) and encourages to get one’s life back in order and to not worry if one presently does not seem to have a grip over life, for with time, things do fall in place and it’ll all be fine. (An already established thing, right? That everything is fine in the end, if it isn’t; it’s not the end, yet)
P.S. Being an Indian, the part where Maribeth suffers from an acid reflux post having spicy Indian food, of course thanks to Sunita’s cooking skills, broke my heart. I so wish I could regale Maribeth with some great, authentic Indian food that would only leave her with a craving for more and not a reflux!