This was a long book (739 pages) and I had the misfortune of being right in the middle of it when Taiwan was getting battered with a COVID19 outbreak. Some nights I was just too tired to get into this. There were nights that I didn’t know where this was going but I’m glad I stuck with it.
It’s good to have an idea of the zeitgeist. People get bored. Something must be going on at all times; there must be drama, otherwise it seems like nothing’s happening at all, like life has come to a standstill. If life moves along at its own pace, everything feels motionless.
At first this seems like a story about an old woman who is old and dying. Let’s call her Grandma. She doesn’t have any life left in her after her husband dies but her family, which is filled with the types of oddballs all families have, tries to bring her back to life. The woman slowly comes back to life and moves out of the family house. The story is told from the different perspectives of some of the family members. We even get it from the perspective of a crow! How is that related? Well, when you read it, it will all make sense.
Every part of the body has a border. So does the heart. A border surrounds it but it also binds it to the other parts. It doesn’t wrench the heart from the rest. Fools! If you cut a border through a heart, you don’t call it a border, you call it a wound. If you lock a heart inside a border, the heart will break.
Once she moves out of the family house and into her daughters house the woman really starts to change. She seems energized and even starts to seem younger. This part of the novel was mostly told from the daughter’s perspective. Why was she coming back to life? What did she have to live for? It appeared it was just because of her friendship with a trans woman but later we will find it goes much deeper than that.
Asses! A border stops nothing. It is a bridge between two connected parts. Between night and day. Life and death. Finding and losing. They are bound together. You can’t separate them.
Eventually, Grandma insists on a trip to Pakistan. They live in India and there has been bad blood between those countries because of Partition. They eventually go to Pakistan and visit different places. They eventually get caught by the police for traveling to Pakistan without a proper visa. On her trip it starts to become clear that Grandma had a horrible time during Partition*.
A border is a horizon. Where two worlds meet. And Embrace
It was a great book. It was about family dynamics and ‘dealing’ with an elderly relative. It was about aging. How do you deal with aging? What is important to you? What is the proper way to act? It was about dealing with trauma but that doesn’t become clear until the end. It’s an uplifting story about a woman who wants to see her hometown before she dies. It’s about borders and how they hurt people and families. She is very brave and this had a great ending. I love reading books from other cultures.
A border is love. Love does not create a jail, it throws out stars that surmount all obstacles. A border is a line of meeting. It pairs this way and that way to create a pleasing shap. It happens when the two meet. It is a confluence. A sangam.
I picked up this book because it was a finalist in the Man Booker International book competition. This is the only book award I religiously follow. I have learned about so many amazing countries and stories from different cultures by reading finalists from this award. I recently found out that this book recently won the 2022 Man Booker International Prize. It is a well-deserved win for the Indian author.
*Partition. What exactly happened between India and Pakistan? I really don’t know much about this history, so I had to visit Wikipedia
Book #40 in my 2022 Reading Challenge