The Pause is a compilation of seven heart-warming stories that are a true representation of life as it unfolds around us. Written as part of the Covid diary writing challenge, the stories are short and written straight from the heart and on a myriad of topics. The emphasis of the prose is on brevity rather than verbosity and that’s why the ensuing text in the book is easy to follow and comprehend. It touches the heart.
The author writes with boldness and there is a degree of confidence that reflects in her stories because the storylines tackle societal malaise, illness, abuse, violence, self-harm, etc but, all with sensitivity and candour. Monica’s language is easy to follow and her work brims over with emotions that transcend her heart to come and reside in the readers’. The characters are endearing and real and not clichéd.
The book opens to ‘A day in a superhero’s life’, a story about a boy suffering from ALS. The story exhibits a beautiful mother-son relationship and brings out the soft, tender side of love that nestles in such homes. Will I live to see another day? Mom will not let me go. Not yet.
‘Thursday’s adventures’ is a story about nine-year-old Milli, a shy bookworm who finds her solace in the written words and her haven in the school library run by a bespectacled old gentleman with a kind heart. Like millions in her generation, Harry Potter opens up a whole new world to her and is the foundation of how this story unfolds in the later half. It is remarkable what books can do for us, she asks herself and I could not agree more at Monica’s words.
‘Phoenix rising’ is a gut-wrenching story of domestic abuse that sadly is the tale of many households in India. Monica tackles this topic head-on and does not shy away from infusing the story with the disgust that she feels at the masochist character that she creates. But, this is also a story about hope and breaking free of the shackles. NO! My daughter will not grow up scared like me; my daughter will not be weak! Meera questions herself when she decides to end the abuse. It takes a David to bring down a Goliath, no?
‘The other man’ is a story that deals with self-harm. It is the story of two men whose paths collide at the cusp of contemplating their voluntary end. The collision leads to judgement from both sides followed by the slow glimmer of realization of their actions. Didn’t I just do the same thing to the boy? Judge him for his choices? Read the story to know what ensued thereafter.
My favourite story from the book – no surprises there! You only have to look at the cover image for this review to know why – is ‘Tangerine’. It is the story of a young working woman, estranged from her mother who finds an abandoned kitten and mothers it back to health. In the wake of the kitten’s convalescence, the woman comes to several realizations about her relationship with her mother. Was this how Mom felt? … This story will stay with me for a long time.
‘One and a half minutes’ is a gruesome reminder to the Mumbai terrorist attacks when the Taj Hotel, Leopold Cafe, etc were targeted. What is happening? Who are these people? Why are they killing people? Apart from being a heart-wrenching story of loss, I found this also to be a testament to the undying spirit of the city and the average hard-working Mumbaikar. Nothing shakes them up. Loss is taken in stride as much as tragedy is and come the next day, its work as usual.
The last story, ‘Null and void’, is perhaps the most hard-hitting story of this anthology. It’s a story about how defiance and the decisions take in its aftermath often comes a full circle to smack a person out of their inertia and acceptance. This is a story about empowerment of women and the cost that they have to pay to come to that realization. It’s not easy, is it? This one word – empowerment – cloaks defeat, heart-break, submission and a plethora of emotions that can take a woman to her breaking point. That’s what Monica explores here and I am glad that she gave this story a happy ending. It felt like a new dawn, fresh and moist with the dew of new possibilities.
All in all, I loved reading this book which is a short read. I recommend it heartily. If I had to pick a grouse here, I would do so with the publishers who have overpriced this book. Oh yes! Substantially! By doing so they have effectively killed this talented writer’s market and have reduced her readers. What first-time authors need is to just to get the word out! How will they do that if the publishers overprice books and readers shy away from purchasing the volumes? It’s high time that publishers realized that the lower the price, the more will be the sales which will off-set loss.
About the author – Monica Singh is a scientist by profession, a bookworm by preference and a writer by passion. She ventured into the world of writing a few years back and since then has set about conquering it with as much precision as she brought to her scientific work. She has been a part of many anthologies by various publication houses but ‘The Pause’ is her first solo work.
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