Delving into the human consciousness

2011-08-17 00:00

ONION Tears is a beautiful, mesmerizing and heart-wrenching debut novel by a very young and very talented writer. Khan is only 26 but she writes with the intensity and maturity of one who is wise beyond her years. She is a literary force to be reckoned with.

The novel tells the poignant story of three generations of Indian-Muslim women living in South Africa. Khadeejah is a first generation Indian. She is an Urdu/Afrikaans speaking granny who loves to cook, complain and collect odds and ends. She is a meticulous perfectionist whereas her 37-year-old daughter Summaya is an unconventional, aloof and seemingly strange single mother. Her 11-year-old daughter Aneesa is searching for the truth about her absent father whom her mum has fooled her into believing is dead. Together with her friend she sets her mind on uncovering the truth behind her mum’s silence regarding her father.

You get wonderful insight into each character’s psyche and you are drawn into their world, their lives, and their minds. The reader gets interesting details and observations of the human consciousness. The characters deal with the intense pain and then numbness coupled with betrayal and the loss of love. The book is loaded with insight and delves into themes ranging from culture and identity to life in general.

Khan has written a novel that not only portrays Indian-Muslim stereotypes but cuts through them to unravel their origins and then deals with them head on. She takes various ideas and issues and explores them through her characters. This is the calibre of novel that you cannot read once. It deserves re-readings. The type of novel where once you are done reading you sigh deeply, dab your tears and sit in silence for a few minutes because it moves your soul.

BOOK REVIEW

Onion Tears

Shubnum Khan

Penguin

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