So this day has come too – the day I tell you I was asked to review a book. I certainly didn’t anticipate it. But I think I have liked this trip, it’s been a little over two years now. I still refuse to read any of my older posts (too many exclamation points and incorrect punctuation, please excuse those, and some of it is quite boring, please excuse all of that too).
Of Bridges Among Us by Neeru Iyer is a collection of ten short stories, each one taking on unconventional relationships revolving around women. This is the kind of book I should have liked. About women, by a woman – it is practically begging to be read by me, in my new found avatar of confused feminist.
The title is evocative, lending itself to imagination. Of bridges being built or destroyed, sometimes you cross them, sometimes you drown. It works as a metaphor for the many relationships the author tries to describe – that of love between a husband and wife, a woman and another woman, single parent and her adopted child, pop idol and fan, to pick a few.
The stories are all in first person, and this makes the exercise monotonous, in spite of the author taking on different roles. The author’s voice seems to come through each time, however much she tries to give us balanced perspectives. In the story ‘The Girl by the Fourth Window’, she writes from the point of view of a young man who obsessively stalks a girl, the object of his affection. She introduces a character (the young man’s friend) just so the story doesn’t veer into uncomfortable territory. This friend appears to exist solely to mention at frequent intervals that stalkerish behaviour isn’t healthy for obvious reasons. Some of the stories have too neat an ending. One could argue that fiction exists for this purpose, to provide us with closure that is otherwise unattainable. But when a woman’s sexual orientation is accepted by her family within twenty pages (‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’), it rings false. Or when a professor befriends a rape victim and the professor’s husband is revealed to be the rapist (‘Falling Stars’), the plot point comes across as forced and does not have the shock value the story was building towards. In ‘The Moonwalker’, a woman’s profession of choice (to act in porn) serves as the basis for conflict in the family. Her brother refuses to accept her on her terms, and attempts to kill himself from shame. When they reconcile, the feeling you are left with is one of disappointment, that a story that could have been mined for layers was treated in so simple in a manner.
Of Bridges Among Us is an easy read, the kind of book that you could finish in an afternoon. It is a brave attempt, but somewhere, something seems to have been lost. It doesn’t move you the way it should, and it doesn’t stay with you, which is a pity, because these are stories that deserve to be remembered.
This review was published in The Madras Mag.
(Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Apparently nobody else will publish what I write.)