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Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry~★★★★★

Author: Rohinton Mistry
Title: A Fine Balance
Release Date: 1995; this edition published in 1997
Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers---a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village---will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state." 

Taryn's Review: This is a big book; it came in at 603 pages total. I was totally lax while reading it as I really didn't pay attention to how big the book was. I would read 5 pages here, 20 pages there, 10 pages later, etc. I basically took my sweet time reading this one.

Why? Well, to begin, the book was intense. This was a difficult book for me to sit down and devour in one sitting. It was rich in details that I wanted to savor, but the story being told was also heavy with emotion. The characters permeated my thoughts throughout the day while I did other tasks. Their thoughts, perseverance, hope, and struggles all weighed on my mind.

I read this book a long time ago and honestly, I only had a shadow of memory of how the book ended when I picked it up this time. About halfway through the book it all came flooding back to me, in part due to some excellent foreshadowing by Mistry, and my heart sank. You won't smile and laugh at the end of this book; you won't cry happy tears. Although it was a dark book, one must admit that this story is, sadly, the reality for many people in the world. The story was set in 1975 and the epilogue was set in 1984, or in simpler terms, not that long ago. I read a review where someone called this book a train wreck, which I don't agree with. Most of us are incredibly blessed in our homes with the best first-world amenities. Many of us have not struggled to obtain basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. This book was a stark reminder that these necessities are not a right of life in many areas of the world. Many people do not have basic resources and are even prevented from obtaining them; that is not to say it doesn't happen here in the U.S., but on the scale this book presented does not happen here.

I think the book also served as a reminder that not everyone has a happy ending, much as we don't like to acknowledge that reality. It is hard to know and think that no matter the efforts put in by some, their reward is naught. This book might make you uncomfortable and sad, but it does so in a cry for the reader to realize humanity is a global issue, not a local issue. This book was a very thought-provoking, insightful read that can shove one out of her comfortable daze, but normally the reader will find that it was a needed awakening.

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