3 out of 4 stars
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Melissa & Kasho was written by author Camilla Chance. It is the late 1950s and Melissa is attending a finishing school in Italy, far away from her home in Australia. Even though she belongs to the upper class and has been raised to act as such, Melissa finds herself suffering under her parents' iron thumbs, forced to hide her weaknesses and unable to stretch herself to fit their mold. For the first time in her life, as she walks the streets of Italy alone, she finds herself able to make her own decisions with no one watching over her shoulder to scorn them.
Although she sometimes finds it hard to get along with the other high society girls in her classes, Melissa befriends an American girl named Daisy whose thoughts and very soul seem to resonate with Melissa's own. Daisy is certain that Melissa is meant to do great things, to bring peace to the world through her calling, but Melissa knows that at the end of the school year, she'll be forced to return to Australia and her awaiting cage, as well as a potential arranged marriage. What complicates things even further is her meeting with a man named Kasho -- a man who does not even exist on Earth, at least not physically. Kasho imparts his wisdom to Melissa through shared thoughts and out of body experiences. With his help, Melissa prepares to face her parents' expectations and pave her own path in the world.
Despite the title, this book deals with Melissa's other relationships more than it does her relationship with Kasho. They are made to be together, so there is little drama or growth in their storyline. He is simultaneously her guardian angel, father figure, and greatest love. However, the conversations Melissa has with him help to shape her decisions and the novel's overall plot.
I felt that this book had a lot of potential, especially in the first half of the book when the author was busy describing Melissa's background and how she had arrived at that point in her life. I was horrified by the way her parents treated her and amazed by how some of the characters around her acted, so I was quickly sucked into the book's worldview. However, once Kasho was introduced, I started questioning things. I had a hard time accepting their methods of communication, as well as the fact that he was, essentially, an alien. Kasho would start to explain their relationship, but usually sidetracked with a, "But that's not important right now."
Although I was dubious of Kasho's character as a whole, I enjoyed how his presence helped Melissa grow as a character and gave her the strength she needed. If she hadn't changed at all by the end of the book despite all of the life-changing events that had occurred to her, I would have been very disappointed. However, both the characters and storyline were very well-rounded, with everything coming to a satisfying conclusion. Although I had to take breaks in the second half of the book because what Kasho was saying went right over my head and made me feel like I wasn't smart enough to get the hidden messages in the story, I enjoyed the book overall. The editing in particular was superb, as I couldn't find a single mistake in the entire book.
Melissa & Kasho is a great story of feminism, rebellion, and love. I give it 3 out of 4 stars, as there were some parts that I didn't understand fully. Chance has a very artistic writing style that changes with the fluctuations in the characters' emotions. It is very unique. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical novels with plenty of drama and a little bit of "mystique" and the unexplainable. It is also full of philosophy and a bit of poetry. I would not be surprised if it becomes a classic one day.
Melissa & Kasho
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