Friday, December 7, 2018

Review: Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Everyone grieves differently and it's hard to know when to step in and offer help to someone and when to let them process things in their own way. Losing someone is never simple, never uncomplicated, and when that loss is tied up with so many questions and unexplained issues, it must be that much more difficult. Gurjinder Basran has captured the complex and endless seeming grief of one such situation in her novel Someone You Love Is Gone.

The novel opens with Simran getting dressed for her mother's funeral. Amrita's death was not unexpected and Simran is an adult but that doesn't mean that she isn't devastated by the loss of her mother. She finds herself floundering as she grieves the complicated woman who was her mother at the same time she faces the growing estrangement in her marriage and the lengthening distance from her only daughter. The three biggest relationships in her life all become intertwined in this time of sadness and confusion and her difficult relationships with her sister and brother add another layer of stress as they work together to plan the funeral and decide what to do with Amrita's ashes.

The novel has three different alternating narrative threads, each building on the others to create a more complete picture of this Canadian-Sikh family's past and present. The present is, of course, the aftermath of Amrita's death and the subsequent squabbling between Simran and younger sister Jyoti as well as the measured disintegration of Simran's marriage as she focuses solely on her grief, uncovering secrets from her mother's past, and her conversations with the ghost of her mother. Mother Amrita's youth and devastating disappointment plays out slowly, unfolding just when explanations are needed for the third plot thread, that of Simran's childhood and the seemingly inexplicable sending away of her younger brother Diwa, an unusual child who knows more about the family's past than he could possibly do.

This is at its core, a story about loss. Obviously it is the story of a daughter's loss of her mother, but it is also a story of the loss of hopes and dreams, the loss of a child and sibling. And as the characters journey through their individual griefs, they move towards an acceptance and the flicker of a hope for the future. Simran is brimming over emotionally, alternately frozen and angry, resigned and desperate as she seeks to make sense of her own life and the choices her mother made, choices that forever impacted Jyoti, Diwa, and Simran herself. There is both a turning away from memory and a recognition and welcoming of it as pieces fall into place. The writing is quiet and steady and Simran's grief, her feeling of being set adrift, packs an emotional punch. The details of the expectations and limitations for girls in the India of Amrita's girlhood and then the reality of life in Canada as immigrants are very well drawn. Although there are some big events that happen in the novel, it is more of a character study and a look at one path through the deep sorrow when someone you love is gone. Elegaic in tone, this is a well written tale of one woman's long path towards acceptance and forgiving.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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