Sunday, July 6, 2014
Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter
Published July 2014 by Oneworld Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours and the publisher in exchange for an honest review
After Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new. But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws. In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.
I've read a lot of books set in India but very few about the experiences of Indian immigrants. The title, Losing Touch, refers not just to the disease that will rob Arjun of his ability to function, but to his inability to maintain his Indian ways as his family struggles to make their home in England. It also refers to his inability to maintain the control over his family he is so desperate to keep.
Hunter tells her story in an unusual fashion, tracking the progress of Arjun's disease over decades by devoting individual chapters to a particular month, often skipping entire years. It reads almost as though it were a collection of short stories. It was surprisingly effective; it allowed Hunter to focus only on the keys points of her story yet still allowing her to fully develop her characters. And though the entire novel is told in third person, Hunter moves her point-of-view to different characters, allowing the reader to get a complete picture. I started the novel feeling sorry for Arjun, who has just lost his brother to a disease he is already beginning to suspect he is suffering from. But when the focus switches to Sunila, my feelings about Arjun quickly changed. They softened over time as I came to realize the Arjun's behavior was more about his culture than about his own weakness.
I really became involved with the characters in losing Touch and raced through the book in just a day. I was as much fascinated by the progression of Arjun and Sunila's marriage as I was by their struggle to fit in in their new country while retaining their heritage.
Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions, see the full tour schedule. http://tlcbooktours.com/2014/03/sandra-hunter-author-of-losing-touch-on-tour-july-2014/. Sorry about the wonky link; I've never had to do a review on my iPad before. Clearly I'm missing something!