I wanted to read Andaleeb Wajid’s When She Went Away for two reasons: My favourite blogosophere-friend Uncle OT recommended it, and I looked forward to attending ILoveRead.in‘s event yesterday, where Wajid interacted with her readers. Since, I couldn’t attend the event (and missed relishing waffles) because I had to be at work, I dedicated my Saturday evening to the book.
My mother woke up one morning, decided she’d had enough of living her life with us and left. That’s right. She just left.
I loved the intriguing beginning. Maria — the teenage narrator — finds life unsettling because her mother has left them. She prepared their breakfast, packed their lunch, left a post-it on the refrigerator, and disappeared. Poof! (Maria’s mother reminds me of Paige’s mother in Jodi Picoult’s Harvesting The Heart. A wee bit.)
The family cannot be a family again until Maria brings back her mother.
And, her quest begins.
Normalcy is something I can never take for granted again.
Meanwhile, the 16-year-old Maria has to cope with her father, who chooses to move on with life (like in all senses), her taciturn brother, her mysterious neighbour Sharmila, and her charming classmate the Basketball Guy.
I must admit. I l.o.v.e the Basketball Guy. Because Maria says, “He was probably the only teen in the entire world who hated shortening words while texting.” I adore the boy, whose sagacity is beyond his age. Maybe, I adore him more because he doesn’t flaunt his wisdom.
Maria’s bumpy search teaches her many a thing about life, and for the reader, the lessons are offered in a subtle, not-so-preachy manner. As she falls and picks herself up, Maria learns to face bullies in her school, appreciate new perspectives, and above all, she understands the importance of not letting her troubles define her identity.
The funny thing about pain is that you forget what it feels like to live without it after some time. It plateaus until you don’t feel it when it hits you the first thing in the morning when you wake up or clutches you when you go to sleep.
Self-pity can drown you if you let it, and I did.
For a YA, When She Went Away is defiantly different. There are some loose ends that Wajid chooses not to tie up. Perhaps, that decision makes the book different because young readers are gently steered towards meditating about embracing uncertainties, and letting go of things that one can’t control.
Now that I have finished When She Went Away, my only regret is that I shouldn’t have missed the waffles too yesterday. 😉