G135 E-Reading Book Review of A Deconstructed Heart by Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed
Author: Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed
Type of book: Muslim Indian/Pakistani, relationships, independence, past vs present, England, ghosts, breaking down, hidden world vs real world
Year it was published: 2012
Mirza is a middle-aged Indian college professor whose wife has left him. He moves out of his house into a tent in his back garden, where he sets up an outdoor classroom and serves tea to his kind but bewildered neighbors. He is visited by the irritable spirit of his long-dead teacher, Khan Sahib, who is befuddled by the dysfunctions of modern life. In the north of England, Mirza's niece, Amal, is finishing up her last year of college before she is expected to join her parents in their new home in India. Asked by her father to talk her uncle back into his senses, she moves into Mirza's house, and they soon are connected by their shared loneliness. She meets Rehan, Mirza's student, and is intrigued by the path of certainty he has built over his own loss and loneliness--a certainty that is threatened by his growing feelings for her. When Rehan disappears, Amal's suffering forces Mirza to face the world once more. Together, Mirza and Amal must come to a new understanding of what it means to be an immigrant family when the old traditions have unraveled. A Deconstructed Heart is a novella that explores the breakdown and rebuilding in one immigrant family trying to adapt: how lines in families and cultures are forcibly redrawn, how empty space can be reframed by a tent into a new definition of home... but how, no matter how hard we may try to forget, the past refuses to be contained.
The characters are described as rounded, and they do change. There are also new vs old traditions in the book. The main characters are Indian-Muslims, and in a few dialogues, as I understood, there is importance of past affecting the present, such as the ghost that's haunting Mirza, or fears that Amal will not get married and doesn't have a chance of meeting someone. Yet for the past, the characters can be described as modern as well; the women don't hide in the house but tend to be active. Amal is described as a modern girl who goes to school and isn't married, while Mirza and his wife are childless, yet Naida does have hobbies outside the house, and does show independence in leaving Mirza. I do hope I'm understanding the novel correctly.
The hidden world vs the real world
Its written in third person narrative from Mirza's and Amal's point of views. I personally think the style tends to be a puzzle of sort. What I mean is that if you look at the cover, notice it tends to be a mosaic. Mirza's wife does glass mosaics if I recall correct, and for me personally it would require several re-readings in order to understand it.
Fiction, Historical Fiction
About this author
I have to admit that although I found the writing lyrical and poetic somehow, I had trouble understanding the story and its message. I understood what the story was about; but I didn't understand the purpose of why it was written. If possible, this is what I understood: Mirza and Naida have been married for a while and are childless due to tragedies. Naida leaves her husband, and Mirza moves to the front yard and decides to live there. Mirza's brother sends the daughter Amal to talk some sense into Mirza but that doesn't work, and instead Amal becomes his caretaker and falls in love with a student named Rehan. Feelings cause Rehan to disappear and Mirza and Amal decide to track him down. There is a subplot involving the dead Quran teacher that tries to help Mirza get back on his feet, but besides that I found the reading confusing, I'm sorry to say.
Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)