Meera is scared after giving birth to her daughter, Jia. Janki had a terrible childhood. When she finally has Meera, her daughter, and stability in her life; both are taken away from her by the ghosts of her past. Shakuntala is disappointed with the birth of her girl child, Janki. She wanted a son. Lives read in the form of letters, with a story that spans seventy years, three generations, and two continents.
Vikkas Arun Pareek’s Letters to My Mother is a moving epistolary novel about generational trauma. We travel through the lives of two mother-daughter duos as they navigate the complex relationship. The novel sheds light, not only on the personal lives of the characters but also on a few historical events and accidents that affected their lives. Hence, first, I would like to congratulate the author for perfectly balancing fiction and reality and making the story genuine for us.
Each of the characters in the story has an individual voice and characteristics. Even for the characters whom we get to know only through the letters, their voice shines through it. It is difficult for an author to highlight a character’s personality just through their letters but Pareek has done this job perfectly. He has also managed to give each of the main characters—Shakuntala, Janki, and Meera—different coping mechanisms. This ensures that whoever reads this book, feels heard, and understood. These factors make it a great read for someone who wants to sympathize with the characters and feel comforted or accepted.
The story also progresses smoothly despite shifting between different timelines. I was a little skeptical that the time jumps and breaks would make me feel disconnected from the story, however, the transition was unbelievably effortless. When reading, I was transported inside the book and could feel myself as the omniscient spectator. I wanted to console Janki and Meera whenever they cried, hug them, and give them a pat on the back when they made a breakthrough.
The only part of the story that disappointed me a little was the ending. I was expecting a happy grandmother-granddaughter reunion or at least Meera taking a step towards understanding her past better and feeling emotionally well. I do not wish to spoil the book for my readers and hence, will refrain from mentioning the end.
However, I believe that the story of the book is worth a read for everyone. It is definitely going on my best reads section because of the emotions it evoked in me. The book was an eye-opener for me that made me bawl my eyes out at certain points.