These Our Bodies Possessed by Light

“What can one say of childhood grief? That it is invisible. That it is denied the vocabulary granted to adult despair. That it shifts, mutates, but seldom vanishes. That it casts a mark.
My sisters and I, we were sorrow stained.”

These our bodies possessed by light‘, a debut work of Dharini Bhaskar is well-deserving of being shortlisted for the 2020 JCB Prize for Literature. It carries the story of three generations woven intricately by tradition. Travelling from Madras to Bombay to Delhi and finally to Boston. Fluctuating like a pendulum between past and present on the swing of lyrical prose and beautiful narration, this book becomes a must-read.

This book is a journey of five women covering a time span of several decades. Three granddaughters, their mother, and the grandmom, all of them are supremely fierce and independent women. They are different from each other yet strongly bound by their life decisions. Our narrator, Deeya, is the middle granddaughter who is on the verge of taking an important decision for herself and that is when she starts reflecting on the lives of the women who have made her what she is today. She says that her decision is interlinked with the experiences and decisions that were taken by her mother and grandmother. The men in the lives of these women were feeble and escapists who fueled the decisions taken by these ladies.

I have read this at various places that parents, along with all the love and happiness transmit the fears and trauma they faced in their lives to their children. The experiences of Deeya’s mother and grandmother shaped her mindset and decisions. This story has a psychological aspect intact with it. Every part of the story feels relatable while reading. There is childhood love, failed decisions due to superstitions, inappropriate marriages, and some really strong female characters. I personally love a book if the story feels connected, the characters and the scenarios look real, and this book has everything in it. The flow of the story from starting to end over 300 plus pages was throughout smooth but the truly authentic circumstances, real dilemmas, and strong characters were attention grabbing. Ammamma, the grandmom, and Tasha the youngest granddaughter are my personal favorites.

All the literary fiction lovers do try this book. There is a reason it was listed for JCB prize for literature.

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