Anjum Hasan is definitely among my top 3 favourite authors, and this book only adds to it. But that also means that this is not a thoroughly objective review.
The book has thirteen short stories that have a varied set of characters in different circumstances. As the jacket informs us, some of the stories are borderline surreal, but that doesn’t take away from the empathy that the author (has and) seems to be able to evoke in the reader. This is especially commendable because the characters vary in age, socio-economic class, mindset, location and many other factors. Yet, the single common takeaway from each of these (sometimes not-so-ordinary) slice of life situations is how the author is able to drag the reader in and empathise with the character/s even if not completely identify with.
I loved the two child’s-perspective stories – ‘Birds’ and ‘Hanging On Like Death’. Both are quite the tearjerkers, with some sublime narration. At least a couple of stories are built on the premise of sudden uncharacteristic decisions, and a different couple of them have sudden twists as well. ‘For love or water’ was a favourite and reminded me of a character from the author’s earlier books. So was ‘Immanuel Kant in Shillong’ and this time (since I have visited the place recently) I was able to visualise some of the settings.
To me, very few authors can capture the ‘need to escape and the longing to belong’ as well as Anjum Hasan. In essence, a wonderful read especially if you like Anjum Hasan’s style of writing that reveals layers each time you read.