• Anastasia Hamurari

April and May in books

The combination of two months came naturally as a result of busy schedule, although now I am thinking about adopting this format full-time. During these two months I discovered three absolutely captivating books I am going to share with you in this post.

When at the Frankfurt airport, a book named “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith caught my eyes and I remembered it being on my “to-read” list of books on the Goodreads app (which I highly recommend, by the way) for a while. I underestimated the amount of free time I would have in Tunisia thinking the book could be easily read at that time. As you have already guessed, I did not manage to even take it out of my carry-on, although I rushed to it as soon as I reached my home’s doorsteps.

People tend to say “Swing Time” is not the best novel to start with when acquainting with Zadie, but I will disagree with that. Here are the reasons why.

According to the author, the story tells about the lives of two brown girls growing up in the same city and sharing the same passion for dancing. Their personalities differ: one is truly talented, while another one has great ideas. The talented dancer’s career does not last, though the not-so-talented friend manages to go a lot further in life. It is a story of choices, sometimes not so well-thought. It is a story of pathways, not often unfolding the way they had imagined. It is a story of friendships that are not defined by the color of your skin or by your background.

Although I anticipated this story to be autobiographic (and who knows, it might be), I still felt strongly connected to the main characters – the girls, who had to undergo so many changes, some occurring at worse times than others. I could relate to the narrator’s views of her family as the story goes on. To be honest, anyone will be able to find some resemblances in their own actions at some point during the reading process.

Every new chapter switches between London, New York and West Africa (probably Gambia), which gives a much wider perspective on every timeline of the characters. Narrating girls’ childhood in London, full time job as a celebrity personal assistant revealing New York, and then charity work in West Africa – all of that made me feel like a time traveller.

All in all, this novel is a great representation of a path one takes, often confusing, at times uncertain, but always engaging. An emotional, thought provoking and challenging story makes a great read for anyone interested in race, authenticity, life choices and self-findings topics. This book is simply way too relevant to our times to miss out on it.

Is there a person who has never heard of “Shantaram” written by Gregory David Roberts? I do not think so (but also do not exclude it). If you are one of those, I hope my thoughts on it will make you want to leave whatever you are doing at this moment and grab one for yourself.

To say that it was the most touching and thrilling novel I have ever read will not do it any justice whatsoever. I do not believe that any heartfelt review could do it any justice, to be honest, but I will try.

So, what is my whole admiration about?Shantaram tells about a man who had escaped from Australian prison, and, with no plans for future, stepped on the land of India. Straight after the landing, he had no clue what events were to occur in his life on the run eventually flipping his life into a new perspective. He had no idea that Bombay (or, as he calls it – “My Mumbai”) would become his beloved home for the years to come. He would not think that he would lay eyes on a woman who would cause him so many troubles and blessings at the same time. He would not think that the biggest local mafia’s head would become his life guide and ultimately a father figure for him. He would also not think that this magical country would give him so many caring and loving friends who would put him before themselves anytime.

I lost the count of events that happened in this book. It seemed like a lifetime. It was a handful of laughter and tears from my side. Life in slums with the poorest, establishment of a so-called slum “clinic” for no fee, life-changing acquaintances, big sums of money earned on a black market, philosophical conversations, another prison term, middle eastern war, loss and grieve for the dearest ones and an endless amount of choices along the way were all a part of this man’s journey in his soon-to-be loved India.

No further details can fully express the range of emotions I felt while reading it. What I know for sure is that ‘Shantaram’ is a book you have to read at least once in your lifetime. It is something you have to feel yourself. It will make you fall in love with Indian people. It makes me want to leave everything behind as I am writing this and head to this country right now. I now know for a fact that India will be one of my travel destinations at some point in life.

The most recent book I read was the Paul Kalanithi’s “When breath becomes air”. There is nothing like it in my “read” list, so I was extremely excited to dive into this book.

The best thing about biographical books is that they hold the most sincerity in them than any other book out there. It is especially true for this number. Although it is never easy to write about your struggles, a special place should be held for those brave enough to do so. The author of this story – Paul – majored in English literature, later finding himself in medicine and pursuing Yale medical school. His path towards the medical field is not the usual one – the ongoing wonder about life-and-death topic led him to it. However, it was not then when he thought he would come so close to the topic and find the meaning of life.

To be a neurosurgeon one day, and a patient another is what Paul experienced to the fullest. His passion for finding the meanings amidst the sorrow is inspiring. To be able to live in the moment and cherish the life you still have, is what Paul had chosen. Evidently, the thought of dying did not quite fit into his life plans, but the embracement of the upcoming future made his two years of having a cancer more freeing (if one can ever say that).

Paul’s brave decision to have a daughter with his wife was the right thing to do. Although it did complicate the already ill life he had, the birth of a child was a blessing he did not want to miss. Eight months prior to dying his daughter was born in the same exact hospital. The life of one has just began while the life of another has gracefully ended – that is the nature’s cycle everyone experiences at some point.

It is true what they say about those lying on the deathbed – they have the most to teach us about life. Paul’s story taught me to always be passionate, strong and graceful even in the hardest times, for those moments are the defining ones in our lives.

Have you read any of the books I have mentioned? Share your thoughts on them down below!

Image credit: Pamela Towns

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