Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Book Review: Dark Circles by Udayan Mukherjee

Book: Dark Circles

Author: Udayan Mukherjee

Pages: 208

Read: The hardcover edition pictured above

Read in: 2-3 hours

Plot Summary: Ronojoy's mother dies alone in the Ashram she had abruptly retreated to twenty-eight years ago, leaving him - then only twelve- to fend for the emotional needs of himself and his six-year-old brother. 

When the cremation rites are complete, Ronojoy is handed a letter from his mother that is not so much a farewell as a confession. As before, it is left to him to decide whether to share the disturbing contents with his brother, whom he has always sought to protect.

Thus, begins another tumultuous cycle in the lives of the two brothers who already carry deep scars from their childhood; their fragile minds ever at risk of succumbing to the dark.

Things I Liked: 

1. This is a book about a broken, dysfunctional family and, don't misunderstand me, but I find these stories fascinating! It's like Tolstoy said, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I find stories set in families endlessly fascinating because every individual action taken in a family has rippling repercussions across the entire family and, sometimes, for generations. This book is a bit like that. 

2. The story, primarily, revolves around two brothers- Bochka and Chotku or Ronojoy and Sujoy. The brothers are in the mid-to-late 30s at this point in the story, when their reclusive mother passes away quietly in an Ashram in Rishikesh. Cancer. Sujoy races back to Delhi while Ronojoy heads up to their  mountain home in Mukteshwar to read a letter left to him by his mother. The letter explodes like an atom bomb into the fragile peace of the brothers' lives, but it also answers almost all the question the boys have been carrying in their hearts since they were 12 and 6 respectively.

3. This is a book about snap decisions and the catastrophic impact those can have on the ones we love. It is also about cruelty. I don't want to spoil too much, but what Rono and Sujoy's mother did to their father and way she handled things with him was cruel. It was cruel to her husband and crueler still to her young sons. 

4. This book also delves into the lasting impact of childhood wounds. Rono is still single and unable to form long-term relationships. Sujoy has a huge self-destructive streak. There is therapy, of course, but the past is sometimes so painful and messed up that there is little therapy can do. Yes, this is a melancholic book, so, read when you think you can handle something like that. 

5. The book is beautifully written and the story and characters stay with you much after you finish reading this book. It makes you think and wonder about the coulda-woulda-shoulda paths the characters could have taken- always a hallmark of good literature. 

Things I Didn't Like: 
1. I would've wanted to know more about the events leading to the breakdown in Rono and Sujoy's parents' relationship. It is alluded to in a book in a couple of different ways- mostly through the eyes of 12 year old Rono- but since it was such a pivotal relationship in this story, more detailing would've been a good thing. Not a major gripe, though. 

Rating: 4.5/5 

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