THE SECOND CHOICE - AN EMOTIONAL SAGA
There are some books whose thematic structure has so much universal appeal that even if you read or re-read them after a decade (or a longer lapse of time), the stories will still seem as meaningful and contemporary as ever. The book that I am going to review belongs to that category.
The Second Choice is authoress Lakshmi Menon’s first full fledged novel in English. I have known Lakshmi for the past one year and more. She is also the web mistress of induswomanwriting.com which is a unique web platform for new writers. I have learnt from her how to encourage fellow-writers and bind them with affection and compassion. Though I have often interacted with Lakshmi on e-mail, my first ever mobile-talk with her happened after getting her book in my hand. The plot of her book is so intriguing that I cannot stop myself from asking her about the inspiration behind this book. But more on that later....
Coming back to Lakshmi. She is a Bangalore based bilingual writer – she writes in English and Malayalam. She has already written three books for children. The Second Choice is her debut novel in English for adult readers.
THE PLOT:The story of the book The Second Choice revolves round two characters - Pavithra and Venu. Pavithra is married to Anand and has a daughter named Anu. Pavithra’s is a love marriage having all the ingredients of the so-called-they-lived-happily-ever-after syndrome. But God acts the spoiler and has a very different plan for Pavithra. Anand suddenly dies of a massive heart attack leaving Pavithra grief stricken saddled with the burden of a child.
After her husband’s untimely death, Pavithra and Anu come to live with Pavithra’s father Narayan Nair who though deeply concerned about his daughter’s future knows very well that she cannot parent Anu all by herself having no skill or qualification to take up a job or any other career. He persuades her to remarry Venu who is a divorcee and has a daughter named Indu.
Venu also has a tragic background. He loves his first wife Soumya dearly but has been forced to give her a divorce. Soumya, by a stroke of ill-luck, has been left completely paralytic after Indu is born. Realizing that she will not be able to lead a normal life hereafter, she insists that Venu gives her a divorce and brings in a new mother for their daughter Indu.
Both Venu and Pavithra are tied to their past. Both are helpless in the hands of fate. Both feel that conjugal love is not meant for them. With this mindset Venu and Pavithra get bound by a marriage of convenience. Venu needs a mother for his child and Pavithra needs fatherly support for her daughter Anu. Will such an arrangement last long? Will Pavithra and Venu eventually find solace in their platonic relationship? Will ever love come knocking at their door? These are the questions which will find answers in the book The Second Choice.
THE NARRATION:The Second Choice is an easy read with simple, flowing language. Lakshmi has effectively portrayed the sufferings of a lonely Pavithra through the everyday incidents of life. Readers who are into descriptive reading may find the narration too simplistic. However, this book came into my hand at such a time when I myself was going through a tough, stressful phase in life. In Pavithra I found a soul mate. Her resilience in the face of setbacks, her tenacity in the face of injustice, her dilemmas, her turmoil, her indecisions, her capacity to rise above the ashes of life like a Phoenix consoled me that I was not suffering alone in this world and inspired me to overcome the adversities that life often springs at us unaware.
THE HIGHLIGHT:The highlight of the book is its dramatic end about which I will not like to elaborate more lest I divulge too much and dilute the interest of the readers. The book also highlights the social plight of women. Educated or less-privileged, women are always at the receiving end even with the noblest of intention and chastest of emotions. They are the ones who are conveniently misunderstood. They are the ones whom society finds blameworthy. They are the ones who have to silently shoulder burdens of their own as well as that of others. They are the ones who have to diplomatically seek out ways in precarious, problematic situations. They are the ones who have to give in to compromises if they desire a hearth finely tuned with peace and happiness and evenly balanced on love and care.
But having said so, I will also like to add that I have no intention of underrating the opposite sex in any relationship or role. However, given the male-dominated society that we live in, it’s an established and much lamented fact that the onus of proving one’s own self always lies on the delicate shoulders of the fairer sex. (Am I sounding feministic?).
THE FINAL WORDS:The Second Choice is predominantly written from a woman’s point of view. It is a deeply emotional statement on the trials and tribulations of an urban woman who has the guts not to succumb to fait accompli. It also deals with the complexity of familial relationships, bonds and tugs of war. The Second Choice does not only allude to the unification of two kindred souls but also the paths taken by them when distressed and accosted by misfortune and maladies. It is the story of various choices that we make in life while at cross roads and which we later proudly (or sometimes otherwise) call our path breaking, life changing decisions.
Coming back to the inspiration behind the book...
Of course! Can any fiction be stranger than Life...?Happy Reading