3 out of 4 stars
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For someone who’s been in a terrible reading slump for half a year, I read through this book super fast - which is most definitely a good thing. I decided to read this book to review mainly because I knew it was a collection of short stories, and everyone who’s ever been in a reading slump knows: baby steps.
Rukhsat - The Departure is composed of twenty-six short stories, each inspired by a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Every story has a unique premise; for example, “Bhutan” is about a well-kept family secret - the illegitimate son who may not be who you expected. “Devesh” is about finding love again, on the most romantic day of the year. “Siraj” is about a boy who loses his innocence too soon and has sex for food out of desperation - but he manages to find it again, as he holds onto the memory of a generous man at an egg roll stand. “Zayan” is about a child who loses someone close to them, then grows up and loses themselves. But they remember the smell of green apples, a memory of their childhood - in a world that refused to let them have one. And there are plenty more short stories, each full of emotion.
It is absolutely amazing, what this author can do in a few pages. There is a beginning, middle, and end, for each story. Sometimes they are told in order, and readers can follow the life of a character as they grow and change. Sometimes the parts are told out of order, in a way that will allow the reader to piece the story together for themselves. Sometimes the last piece of the story is given to the reader in the final sentence, evoking a shocking feeling of unfamiliarity when the full picture is finally visible. Regardless, each chapter tells a full story, and I personally really liked how much could be understood with so little written.
I really liked all the characters as well. The author was also able to write about all characters in a way that placed them in the gray area between good and bad. Every one, in some way, had their own demons, internal conflicts, flaws, or memories, that really solidified them as an individual and allowed them to fit into their respective chapters. In each section, I also loved seeing how the characters interacted with one another, whether it was only in memories, letter-writing, or even only subtly through context.
For the most part, I also liked the writing style, as I really enjoyed the figurative language, as well as the manipulation of punctuation and spacing to emphasize certain sentences. However, I do think that this book is need of some heavy editing, as there were many formatting and grammatical errors. For example, in the preface there was a run-on sentence: “No, they never die they multiply.” In another chapter, the incorrect “its” was used: “Like a restless ocean and it’s even more restless waves…”, and in another chapter, there was an extra article: “A gash and a then a hand grasped my soul and yanked at it.” Sometimes there is an extra space before a period. These are definitely minor issues, but because there were too many errors, it slightly hindered my reading experience, and I could only rate this book 3 out of 4 stars, despite all its positives.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to everyone, but I think readers of contemporary novels about social issues or people who like short stories would enjoy it greatly. I’m sure with some more editing this book would flow even more smoothly, and its effect would be even more powerful. Still, the author has crafted a book that is intensely emotional, eye-opening, and thought-provoking, and reading it was an unforgettable experience.
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