4 out of 4 stars
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Grind by Edward Vukovic is a fiction novel exploring how life plays out in mysterious ways, through coincidences which bring together hitherto strangers, to form the big picture.
Ziva is the recipient of an unnatural gift which is passed on from one generation to the next on her father’s side. Her love for coffee is but obvious then, considering that it is the coffee cups which hold the secrets and patterns of life that she deciphers for people. Simon loves his coffee too much to share it with others; after all it’s a special mixture, not meant for the espresso lovers. Also, it is the one thing he likes in his largely hopeless life. For Isaac, coffee acts as a reminder of his alcoholic past, and it is his comrade-in-arms, as he tempts himself every day, sticking to this hot beverage while serving intoxicating drinks to the customers in his pub. For Michel, bonding over coffee is an important activity, since that brings him close to the only friend in his life.
The story follows how the lives of these characters get inexorably entangled within a couple of days, and how the events which play out during this time change the course of their lives. Coming to the writing style, to call it vivid would be an understatement. Sample this, “Its (coffee’s) scent is powerful, sensual, mystical. Awakened by its timelessness you feel it coarse through you, steel you against the barbs of the oncoming day. The warmth against your skin as you cup it softly, gingerly, careful not to spill it. Its heat rises and falls on your breath, the steam billowing like sails of mist. Each gust drifting through you, rippling across your senses. Charged, you grimace slightly, the first taste flushing down your throat, bitter and hot. Subtle nuances trickle over your lips, moisten them; scar them temporarily with auburn hues. A flick of your tongue catches its darkness, imbibes its vigor. It is your master and you its slave. Without it you are nothing and with it…all.” The book is sprayed with myriad, evocative descriptions of coffee, trying to draw a parallel with the complexities of life. Not just coffee, but the whole book is replete with sharp imageries, flowing in synchronization, back and forth, from the perspective of one character to the next.
Coming to the plot, the author has brought in multiple angles, at the same time, kept it simple. Whether it’s Ziva’s immigration from the region ravaged by the Balkan wars, or Isaac's rebirth after his wife’s untimely demise; the author has picked up straightforward individual stories to spin an interesting, complex web. The emotional struggles and short glimpses into the past of these characters, is where the central plot really comes across, reflecting on the ‘grind’ they had to experience in their lives. For example, Ziva’s confusion about whether her intuitive powers are a curse or a gift, especially since whenever she reads for herself, there’s only trouble brewing in her coffee cup, or Simon reminiscing about how his life changed after he lost his father, or Michel falsifying his past since the truth would disgust and repel his best friend.
The book sketches an engaging plotline of interconnected tales and reiterates that old proverb, 'the world is a small place'. The conclusion was slightly disappointing, primarily since it was predictable and a bit cliché, but nonetheless a fitting end to the story. I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars.
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