ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
Short stories are always a pleasure to read. I often marvel at the fact that in such few words they are able to tell a complete story and if this is not magic then what else is.
Having recently read Perumal Murugan’s The Goat Thief and Ruskin Bond’s A Song of Many River, my love for this genre has multiplied. So when Deepa Agarwal’s You Cannot Have All the Answers came my way for review, I gladly accepted it. Read on to know my thoughts about this book.
What is the book all about and what to expect?
The book, as already stated above, is a collection of 15 short stories. Each of these stories is 5 to 15 pages long. Most of the stories included in the collection have been previously published in notable journals and magazines like The Asian Age, Indian Literature, Cicada magazine, The Little Magazine etc.
Quality of the book, font size & style and general readability
Readability is becoming one of the strongest factors in making or breaking a book, hence it was imperative that I include a small section in my review talking about the readability of a book.
You Cannot Have All the Answers is a book which “screams” quality. Everything from the font size, font style, page formatting, line spacing, quality of the paper and the book cover is just perfect.
The women-centric theme
The one thing that makes You Cannot Have All the Answers so different from other short story books on the market is its unique theme. All of the stories are about women and in one way or another, the book brings to limelight the various issues that plague a woman.
It not just tells us beautiful stories, it also creates awareness and gives a strong social message. I loved how at the end of each story, the book leaves us with a question to reflect upon; a thought to ponder over.
All the characters are beautiful
Whether it is the neglected Meena – the seventh girl in a row born to parents who obviously went to so much trouble seeking that elusive prodigal son, or it is the adventurous Anuradha who is banished from her own family just because she ran away from a marriage that was decided for her against her wishes.
Whether it is the ever guilty Pragya who could not look after her ailing mother just because her husband had some other plans for their future, or it is the now-old and worn Mrs. Lal who was often punished (read molested) by her elder brother’s friend at the age of six because, as she was told, she was the one who killed Mahatma Gandhi.
In this collection, all the characters live their life as any normal being would except, deep down in their core, they all are wounded. Their seemingly normal existence is marred by their scarred memories, their guilt, their fears and their inadequacies. And this is exactly what makes them so beautiful, so relatable, so appealing.
What about the entertainment quotient?
When it comes to entertainment, You Cannot Have All the Answers delivers exactly what it promises. It promises a bunch of heartwarming stories and quite obviously all the stories in the book are sensitive and meaningful.
My personal favourites
My favourite story was Cradle Song. This was because of two reasons – first, I love stories about partition and second, because it was such a passionate tale of longing that it was hard for me to let any other story take the first spot.
Another story which had a profound impact on me was Why Did You Kill Mahatma Gandhi? When I first read the story, I could never guess the connection between what was written and the weird title. But just when I started to grow weary of guessing the meaning behind the title, it became clear. The subtle way in which the author has written about such a serious issue like child molestation is just brilliant.
Pick the book if
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys short stories, especially thought-provoking ones.
I will also highly recommend this book to all female book lovers because of the women-specific theme of the book.
It is a book that vehemently opposes regressive standards and calls for social reforms.
Skip the book if
Skip the book if short stories do not excite you. I would also suggest you refrain from the book if you don’t enjoy stories which necessarily don’t have a conclusion.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of You Cannot Have All the Answers from the link below.