Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘reader’

Unschakles the Mind

Review: The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans
Reviewed by Monica Arora. 23 September 2014
KITAAB (“Book” in Hindi) Singapore

LastConception-CoverThe oft-debated dichotomy between modern scientific research and wisdom of traditional values, religious beliefs and spiritual propensities have formed the basis of several discussions, debates, deliberations and continues to dog the human sensibility, constantly torn between the two. This conflict between science and spiritualism forms the basis of the engaging novel by Gabriel Constans, entitled ‘The Last Conception’.

The plot revolves around the young female protagonist Savarna Sikand, who is an embryologist engaged in working with fertility treatments in a high-tech laboratory in San Francisco, US. Meanwhile, her parents, hailing from the south-eastern part of India, but settled in the United States, and deeply rooted in some ancient religious cult, express their desire for their daughter to conceive and thereby continue their rare lineage. What follows is a gripping saga of the dilemma faced by the young scientist Savarna who fights very hard to tread the fine line between her parents’ spiritual beliefs and her own scientific wisdom.

Gabriel has come up with a taut narrative that is extremely simple and yet keeps the reader engaged with its fast pace and myriad topics conjuring doubts, dogmas and apprehensions in minds of young people all over the globe. Right from exploring alternate sexuality and its ramifications on the immediate family to the delicate issue of childlessness, all are dwelt upon with much thought and deliberation and ‘The Last Conception’ offers a rare insight into lives of seemingly ordinary men and women dealing with such quandaries on a day-to-day basis.

Moreover, there is this keen sense of urgency and uncertainty running throughout the narrative pertaining to Savarna’s attempts at conception and the traumas, both mental and physical, which have to be endured for accomplishing the same. The high point of the novel comes in the form of adoption of an Indian-origin baby by Savarna’s sister Chitra owing to her infertility and the feelings of joy, pleasure and pride experienced by the entire family thereafter. Such sensitive subjects are dealt with much bravado and wisdom by the author and offer a lot of information to readers regarding these subjects, thereby clearing several dogmas and misconceptions plaguing childless couples and misled elders, who succumb to mindless religious dictates and notions without studying their cause and effect in detail.

What really touched me was how the parents of the two girls, Mira and Mr Sikand, handle their daughters’ dilemmas as well as their old mother’s beliefs continuing from unwavering faith in a dwindling sect of ancient India. The maturity of their feelings and their ability to keep their family together under all circumstances stands as a pinnacle of hope in contemporary times mired under the garb of modern values or lack of them and hence, offering no emotional solace to lonely, weary souls in a confused society.

‘The Last Conception’ is indeed a very noble attempt by the author to choose such unusual and uncommon themes and write a piece of prose that unshackles the mind and offers rare insight into the much spoken and widely discussed matter of science vs spirituality. With immense care and caution, Gabriel has gently treaded around prickly territory and offered a well-researched and well-structured story which deserves to be read and preserved not just as a treasure-trove of information but also juxtaposing human emotions.

Read entire review and more at KITAAB.

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She-Rain

She-Rain: A Story of Hope by Michael Cogdill (Morgan James Publishing, 2010)

Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

She-Rain is like a gem that’s been pulled out of a pigsty. It contains some of the most eloquent prose and language since Shakespeare. Some will see elements of Pat Conroy’s writing that takes place in the Carolinas and Rick Bragg’s memoir of growing up in Alabama, though Mr. Cogdill’s character’s are more inclined to speak with a natural rhythm and cadence, which invites readers to be privileged to Frankie Locke’s heart and mind, as he grows up with his abusive addicted father and eventually finds solace, understanding and new ways to live from Mary Lizabeth and Sophia, who become his loves, friends and guardian angels.

There is no need to keep all of the author’s words wrapped tightly in secret between the book’s pages, though there are many secrets that come to light as the story unfolds. Here are a few lines that catch your breath and lavish you with voice, metaphor and nuance.

“Creases of his face flowed with streams of it like slug trail, easing off his chin.”

“In the throes of a drunk, or even the craving of one, his manners seldom rose above a steers’.”

“In the squeal of mosquitoes and flies drawn to sweat, I took in one final look at the vista from Granny’s pocket.”

“The day came so cold the air felt breakable.”

When Mary asks Frankie to dance, she says, “My dearest Mr. Locke, reckon I can borrow your frame for this struggle?”

Concerning feelings of shame for past deeds, Sophia tells Frankie, “I don’t see a solitary cause for disgrace. What shames you, from now on, will be up to you.”

The subtitle of She-Rain is A Story of Hope. It is really a story of redemption and courage to step into the unknown and break expectations and taboos. It is also about grief and loss and what we do with its tailings. The people involved in She-Rain seem so honest and real; they are almost palpable. In the acknowledgments section, the author states that some of the characters in the book are based on people he has known, loved and appreciated throughout his life. It would not be surprising to learn one day that the entire story and the incidents and experiences portrayed, were all based on actual events that took place in real time.

As you get to know Frankie, Mary Lizabeth, Sophia and their families and circumstances, you take a liking to them and find your self hoping, against all odds, for the best. Thus, are the abilities of Mr. Cogdill to shine a light on humanities worst and best traits with words so delicious you’ll want to have them for every meal. The last portion of the book found this reader sitting on their old torn up coach, cat underhand, with tears of sadness and joy streaming down his cheeks like a babe who’d been lost for dead in the woods and just been returned to loving arms.

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