• Monika Satote

Undertow by Jahnavi Barua : Book Review

Sometimes I feel, we are all stuck. Everything seems stagnant. But we stay. We stay in relationships, at some places, attached to a few things and people.


There is something that makes us stay. There’s something that makes us be there a little longer. What is it?


Belongingness.


We belong

in some places,

with some people,

and that makes staying there worthwhile.


But what if someone force you out of it?


That’s what poor Rukhmini goes through. When she falls in love with Alex, a man from another state, her mother, Usha Goswami, opposes her like an enemy. Her brother Arun and father Torun help her run and marry Alex. After that, Rukhmini never returns to her home, the yellow house. Years later, a young woman knocks on the doors of Goswami and there starts the next part of the story. This woman is Loya, Rukhmini’s daughter. She leaves Bangalore and goes to Assam to study Asian elephants, but before that, she decides to visit her grandfather. Her arrival shocks everybody. But there, she starts the journey to find her answers. Loya wants to know why her mother had to suffer so much.

Mainly set in Assam, this multi-generational story explores themes like belonging, self-discovery, intricate human relationships, regrets, family dynamics. I loved how this book transports the reader to Assam with some incredible descriptions of places - The yellow house, river, nature around it etc. I also loved that the story did not limit itself to the storyline. It also touched upon the political sequences Assam goes through.


The characters in this book are complex. The mother-daughter dynamics of Usha-Rukhmini and Rukhmini-Loya was the best part of this book. It was perfectly written, like just in the range of how practically mother and daughter get along. No whitewashing.


Having said all of that, I would like to mention that I cannot put my finger on what exactly went wrong for me. When I reached the middle of the book, I felt slightly lost, and I had to force myself a little to reconnect to the story. I wouldn't call it a disappointing book, because I liked it in parts. Worth reading for sure. But I expected the book to leave a great impact on me, but it did not.

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