Goodreads blurb : A train stops at a railway station. A young woman jumps off. She has wild hair, sloppy clothes, a distracted air. She looks Indian, yet she is somehow not. The sudden violence of what happens next leaves the other passengers gasping. The train terminates at Jarmuli, a temple town by the sea. Here, among pilgrims, priests and ashrams, three old women disembark only to encounter the girl once again. What is someone like her doing in this remote corner, which attracts only worshippers? Over the next five days, the old women live out their long-planned dream of a holiday together; their temple guide finds ecstasy in forbidden love; and the girl is joined by a photographer battling his own demons. The full force of the evil and violence beneath the serene surface of the town becomes evident when their lives overlap and collide. Unexpected connections are revealed between devotion and violence, friendship and fear as Jarmuli is revealed as a place with a long, dark past that transforms all who encounter it. This is a stark and unflinching novel by a spellbinding storyteller, about religion, love, and violence in the modern world.
Picture this; three old women on a holiday, one of who suffers from a mild form of Alzheimer’s’, one young woman who is Indian but has lived in Norway for most of her teenage life, her ‘assistant’ who is helping her out in filming a documentary, a temple guide, all of these characters’ lives criss-cross each other during the time they are in Jarmuli. And the incidents that occur are nothing short of life-changing for each of them.
The young girl seems to be running away from something or is she in search of something. Her assistant is struggling with a broken marriage. The old women, in the twilight of their lives, are just trying to relive some good old fun days reminiscing on their lives gone by and old incidents. The temple guide is struggling with issues of his forbidden love.
Flitting between points of views of the various characters, the author paints quite a vivid picture of the temple town, its inhabitants, the various issues that each of these characters grapple with, their pasts, their presents and their journey towards an uncertain future, and more importantly their search for what I term ‘closure’. The young woman’s demons in particular are quite gruesome and hold a mirror to one of India’s realities which most of us conveniently either choose to ignore or are simply aren’t aware of.
Suffice to say that the author does weave her words quite poetically and paints quite the vivid picture using the setting very well. Her prose almost always reads like poetry and leaves readers with quite a whimsical view of not just the characters’ situations but our own lives in general. What worked really well for me (and might not for most other readers) was the fact that the ending was left quite open ended. All the knots are not necessarily tied up, and quite a bit is left to readers’ imaginations.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review.