Book Review: Distant Echoes Volume 1
Genre: Collection of short stories (Various authors)
Published by: MKS Publishing, Chennai
Rating: Four stars
Distant Echoes-An Introduction:
A collection of short stories, woven by nine women, that binds by a common thread, emotions and matters of the heart cum love and lust. The collection depicts a mirror image of relationships formed by society where there exist a gap by what the heart long for, varying expectations of emotions and the realm of life-cum-cornucopia of human existence. If there was something called, ‘The Economics of Love and Human Relations’ Distant Echoes would have provided fodder for the answers that often slip away from our imagination. A kaleidoscope of imagination breeding angst, hurt, loneliness, lust, jealousy and mystery packaged in one volume. Compelling at times and an ‘arresting flow’ that provokes a pregnant pause in terrific description yet set in a simple setting.
Over the years, I have started loving short stories because the emotions can be very personal, leaving less scope for value judgement and crass moral classification. It’s about the heart that lust and longs for love, complexity of human emotions afflicting the mind and heart. Distant Echoes is a honest attempt in providing answers to afflictions that plague our existence, throwing light at the simple things of life and exploring the conditions of women, desires, angst and loneliness.
At one glance: Distant Echoes is one book that will warm and melt your heart, offering countless possibilities of human emotions and exploring the inner side of life in a simple and yet honest cum refreshing manner. It’s a must on your kindle and book shelf.
PS: I made a request to Gargi Mehra who immediately sent me the book for review. Thanks a lot Gargi for trusting me.
A critique of the narration
Distant Echoes start off with Paying the Piper by Vrinda Baliga, exploring the conflict between two generations about the world of computers, gaming and life. The story offers an interesting discussion about Stephen Hawking and emotion intelligence as father and son, two business men-father and son- with entirely different outlooks view things in life. It start off quite in a novel manner but loses steam after some time. The aim is to explore how young kids are afflicted with computer games and business pulls all strings to make us believe in the product which is another way to make pots of gold. The premise is interesting but what works against the narration is that it gets too long. Having said that, I like the way the story ends:
“It’s just that you folks shouldn’t be quite so surprised. You did name him Pied Piper. after all. And you know how that story ends.” Interesting end. I like the start and the end better. Still, a good effort by Vrinda Balinga.
Gargi Mehra is a terrific story teller and enjoy reading her blog. ‘Matter of the Heart’ is a take on urban relationships, infatuation and lust of a married woman for a colleague at work and how she does the chasing, crossing the seas. It’s one of my favorite story.The story strike the right chord, efficiently exploring the lust side of life and our emotions that often play havoc with us in a subdued matter, exploring our desires as human beings. There is deception at the end of the road but it’s brilliant narration, sustained flow and fast paced from start-to-finish.
“Kunal stood with his arms crossed over his chest, an inscrutable expression coloring his face. Why did she get the feeling that he wanted her out of the room?..the sobs racking her body had stopped. It will be fine, she said to herself, it will be fine.”
Smara’s Different Strokes is another beautiful story, aesthetic in appeal depicting lust, art, creativity which is ‘noir’ in appeal. There is hurt and pain expressed by the stroke of the brush when one comes face-to-face with the kaleidoscope of the broken heart, dreams and love creative people make on the realm of canvas. It’s one story where every word and narration is crafted like art. There is Kamasutra and love-sutra. Mind-blowing characterization. Now, who can argue with Smara on this one?
What works in Distant Echoes is the varied stories of love and human emotions. Fuddy-duddies by Shruthi Rao comes as a breezy, offering a change with an interesting genre, mystery. A death has happened and two cops board the jeep to reach the place. Throughout the narration, one empathize with the female character, at the receiving end and often the flow makes us wonder whether she is a ‘damsel in distress.’ The end is pure bliss and heart-pounding stuff, coupled with breath-taking finish.
Nupur Roopa’s Elysium set in Kashmir, gently touches the pain of being driven out of one’s homeland and rips the heart, in the description of the world of a child, her best friend, small toys as the companion It’s a cute story but touching and heart-wrenching at the same time. The author has intelligently brought to the fore the emotions of little Dia, her lonely heart and a child’s desire for her world, her home. It makes the heart sad when we think what small children goes through in the valley. The story will melt your heart. It’s sheer brilliance.
Fehmida Zakeer’s Wooden Logs Floating in the River is a beautiful story about love, friendship and the enmeshed tradition about marrying young girls when they reach a certain age. The story looks at the evolution of culture and religion, how we can be prisoners to tradition, often overlooking someone’s wish as a person. It’s poetry in motion. Full credit to the author. Sujata Rajpal’s The Boss is a story in the office about jealous where two women, united by common destiny, find common cause, after the elder feels threatened by her junior assistance. It’s refreshing and endearing.
Rita Mukherjee’s Grihapravesh and Ginger Lily Lady by Leela Devi Panicker deserve mention for expression human emotions, pain of loneliness by elderly members of society in the face of change in society. It touches grief and human abandon meeting love one has for their own kin.
To be honest, Distant Echoes are stories expressing sheer beauty and the change one finds tough to copewith in real life. Some of the stories are written in a simple manner that makes it easy to relate to. While in some, the narration partially suffer in parts which may make it a little bit tedious. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the stories lack merit. Of course, it has. Just pointing at some situations. How I wish there were more short stories to make it bigger!
Nine short stories, well-written that finds echo in our heart, though from a distance but worth reading. ‘Distant Echoes’ are brilliant stories that one cannot afford to miss. I can’t wait for the second volume. All power to the authors coming together to narrate a stories about life, very much today. The stories will remain with you for a long time and a must-read.