Book Review: A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land by Shweta Ganesh Kumar

The author got in touch with me on Goodreads and asked me if I would like to read and review the book. It sounded interesting enough for me to say yes. I don’t pick up many books because they don’t enthuse me enough. She was prompt to send me an e-book but me being the lazy person I am, took ages to get to reading it. Apologies for the delay, Shweta, it’s all because of my tendencies to ignore ebooks when I have proper books in hand. I’ve got to overcome this, especially given the fact that I’ve got so many interesting titles waiting to be read on the Kindle.

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Mythili is a newly wed. She has just got married to the love of her life, Siddarth(Sid). Mythili has been an independent young woman, working as a crime reporter, covering crimes of the most gruesome kind. Nothing fazed her or so she thought. Sid and Mythili had a passionate long distance relationship and were yearning to start living together after getting married. Mythili quits her job and joins Sid in Philippines.

For the first time in her life, she realises that she is a ‘dependent’, something she finds difficult to stomach. Already finding it hard to come to terms with her new status, she also realises that there is hardly anybody among the expats that she meets who is of her wavelength. Life as an expat is a whole new ball game , and one that Mythili doesn’t know the rules of. And she isn’t quite sure she wants to either. She finds completely herself out of place in her new environment, be it the people she meets or the city that she lives in. To add to her discomfort, all her efforts of finding a job seem to fall flat as well. Her unhappiness and dissatisfaction starts to have a bearing on her life with Sid. She wonders if she would end up joining others around her as a dissatisfied housewife.

It is a charming, often hilarious, very real narrative of Mythili’s new life. I could relate to Mythili’s situation quite a bit, even though I haven’t been in a similar place myself. It is a situation that very common these days. Shweta writes with eloquence about Mythili’s experience of uprooting herself, to follow her heart and then wondering if it if was all wrong, wondering where things started to unravel, and how she picks it back up and puts her life back on track. Relocating yourself to a different place and starting a new life might sound romantic and exciting, it comes with its own challenges and issues.

The author also captures the insulated lives that expats sometimes end up leading. A life centred around themselves and their communities rather than making an effort to integrate themselves with the land that is their home now.

It is a fast paced, absorbing read which keeps you hooked and you find yourself cheering for Mythili. The characters were real, and some of the expats described, they are oh so familiar! I thought Sid was a sweetheart, and the relationship that Sid and Mythili shared was very sweet and heartwarming.

I particularly liked the way each chapter opens with a quote from Alice in Wonderland. Every quote was relevant to what Mythili was going through and I thought it was a brilliant idea by the author. In so many ways Mythili was like Alice falling into a rabbit hole with no control over her circumstances. Would I recommend it, yes of course! It is a 4/5 from me, and a book that I think a lot of us would identify with and enjoy.

About the Author
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a writer and travel columnist. An alumnus of the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, she worked as Communications Officer for Greenpeace India and as a correspondent with CNN-IBN, before dedicating her life to writing. She has written two other books as well, ‘Between the Headlines-The travails of a TV reporter’ and ‘Coming Up On The Show… The Travails of a news trainee’.

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The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

I’ve had the unfortunate luck of never really getting a truly mind blowing book when I get a review request. When Michelle Cohen Corasanti emailed me asking me if I would like to review her book, I was intrigued by the story and immediately agreed.

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Ichmad Hamid was a gifted young Palestinian boy living in a Palestinian village controlled by the Israeli Army in the 1950s.  The smallest of things are enough to get in trouble with the Army. Living in a constant fear of landmines, and the atrocities committed the army, Ichmid and his family are not the most secure of families. Ichmid, is very gifted, extremely intelligent and sharp, he excels at his studies, but is forced to drop school and go to work when his father gets thrown into the prison on the suspicion of aiding terrorists. Ichmid and his younger brother Abbas, 12 and 11 year olds, have no option but to go to work and earn a living. They make very little, but they can’t do without it either. They have no home, and no permit to build one, and are forced to live in a tent, in all sorts of weather and conditions. The work they did, managed to keep them from starving, but also handed out more misfortunes for the family. Torn by responsibility and guilt, his only support was his father, who refused to see evil in anybody. His father’s constant support through letters kept Ichmid’s faith. There came an opportunity for him to get a scholarship at the Hebrew University, and it was his father who backed him and gave him the courage to stand up for himself. His mother and his brother Abbas, felt that it was a betrayal on his part to go to an Israeli University and work with the Jews. They were the people who were responsible for the condition of their lives, after all.

Ichmid persevered, balancing out his life, keeping his family as his first responsibility sometimes having to take difficult decisions. While Ichmid managed to make a life for himself, despite all the misfortunes and cruelty that he and his family were dealt with, the book makes you reflect on those who get sucked into the situation, with no way out, like his brother Abbas. Ichmid follows his father’s advice of not letting hatred consume him, while Abbas, went the other way. Abbas, of course, had been dealt with a more difficult hand though, so it is understandable to see his frustration and his unhappiness with his brother’s decision to work and be friends with their oppressors. So easy for two brothers to be brought up in similar circumstances but end up in completely different areas in life.

It is a heart-breaking read. One that will leave you sad, and upset, that there is so much of injustice in the world. So many people are fighting for a life, a simple life, a life without fear, the  things we take for granted. While this book was specifically about the Israel-Palestine conflict, it could resonate in any of the conflict ridden parts of the world. It also opened my eyes to what is happening in Palestine. The living conditions, the constant fear that they live with, with no real future for their children.. things we can’t even imagine.

The story starts with a bang, and the author manages to maintain that tempo. Reading about the Hamid family’s life and misfortunes makes you realize how many lives are caught in political conflicts which they have nothing to do with. All that most people want is a happy, comfortable and secure life, which sadly remains a dream in so many conflict hit parts of the world.

While not an easy read, it was a total page turner. I just couldn’t put it down. The only reason I took a couple of days to read it was because I had a migraine, but even that couldn’t stop me from picking up the book and reading. Despite the mindless tragedies, and the sadness, it is a book that ends with hope. A hope that one day we will see a conflict free world.

The subject was gripping, as I already mentioned enough times already, I also loved the characters. Each of them, easy to identify with. Even when you might not agree with their methods, you understand where they are coming from. You feel Ichmid’s guilt and sense of responsibility, as well as the feeling of being torn between what he needs to do and what his family thinks. Abbas’ anger and frustration, Baba’s gentle strength which holds Ichmid strong. Nora, I loved Nora! Let me just stop here and say that it is a book worth the read.

I give it a 4.5/5. I would love to read more from the author.

About the Author

Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a Jewish American woman with a BA from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a MA from Harvard University, both in Middle Eastern Studies. She is also a lawyer trained in international and human rights law. She has lived in France, Spain, Egypt, and England, and spent seven years living in Israel. She currently lives in New York with her family. The Almond Tree is her first book.

This book is available on Amazon and Flipkart(India).

Thank you, Michelle Cohen Corasanti for the review copy.