Sidenote: Today’s the last day to enter my Books & Tea giveaway! Anyone in the U.S. can enter! Details here:
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Short Review: Author T.S. Ghosh successfully transports her readers in India, where she follows the life of a cursed woman. This short novel is beautifully written, with characters that will leave you intrigued until the very end. You’ll find yourself scouring the internet for any information at all about Ghosh’s next project.
For long minutes, I sat in front of my computer, trying to come up with a hook that would make y’all immediately buy this book. Finally, I decided to let it sell itself. Because Awakening Kali is that good; it doesn’t need me to do anything but relay its message.
In the short prologue, Awakening Kali begins with a lesson of sorts. Author T.S. Ghosh walks readers through the legend of Kali, the mighty Hindu goddess. Learning about Kali is essential to understanding the main character, introduced in the first section, entitled Before the Awakening.
As a child, Chhaya changes her name. Originally named Abha, meaning sunlight, she prefers the name Chhaya, meaning shadow. Over time, her family forgets she was ever named differently. The last girl in a family that treasures their twin sons, shadow is perhaps the most accurate name should she could have chosen. Her dark complexion and waif-like frame only serve as additional fodder to cast her aside.
Like many other young women, Chhaya is eventually married off– luckily to a smart and kind man named Arun. Love blossoms between the two of them, Arun spending late nights reading to her from his journal, and Chhaya learning all of his favorite foods and teas. Their love is a beautiful love, despite their lack of material objects.
While at its heart, it’s a story of an enduring family, Awakening Kali is not merely a love story. It’s a story questioning divine anger, which begins when Chhaya breaks a statue of Kali while angry at her daughter. From there, Chhaya’s life quickly spirals downward, as she– and those around her– believe the Goddess has placed a curse upon her. Routine frustration toward her children and husband grow out of control like a wayward flame, and her cleaning tendencies become pathological. This second part of the book, titled After the Awakening, is where the story truly begins. Readers follow the story of a family absent a stable mother, and learn exactly how both sides cope with her curse.
The organization of this book into two distinct sections paves the way for a conversation that is continued in the afterword. Was Chhaya’s curse always a part of her, lying in wait for the right trigger to set it off? Or was it bestowed upon her as punishment for her rage? It’s more than a question worth asking– it’s one that needs to be asked.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars because it’s stellar. There honestly aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe how I felt about this book. For readers who enjoy complex characters and Indian landscapes, I recommend Awakening Kali without reservation. T.S. Ghosh writes with refreshing purpose and skill, merging traditional Indian culture with a conversation on mental health. If Indian culture is anything like the Caribbean culture in which I was raised, then it is a conversation worth having. Check out T.S. Ghosh’s website at tsghosh.com.
Disclaimer: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.