I have a pattern of reviewing books. I finish reading, take a poignant pause to process the character and events, or incidents if it is non-fiction, and immediately note down the points. But while I was reading Lives Not Lived, all I could feel was an excruciating pain afflicted by the lives of Haree and Naina. Do the books we read connect to us to such an extent that we empathize with the characters and see ourselves metamorphosing into them? They do! Lives Not Lived by Monika Bhatti did because it is one of the most painful Tragedy Novels
Lives Not Lived by Monika Bhatti – Review
The only good thing about pain is that it connects. And “Lives not Lived” is a story about the same connection. It is a story about Haree and Naina who are dealing with the same kind of struggles but are still hoping to survive.
This book talks about child marriage, abuse, and courage. It’s a story about all the innocent children who could not protect themselves. It’s a journey of women who always lived in silence. It’s a silent journey we all go through or see around us.
Haree, a young girl was married off when she was 16. She always lived a simple life. She had accepted the anger that her father had for her mother for giving birth to only girls the way women lived and were treated, everything was acceptable to her. She had no desire of any kind until she married Ram.
Naina is different from Haree. She did not want to accept the restrictions, neither she wants to break them. All she wants is to live in her own imagination where she could play and sing and dance. But everything changes for both of them when they came face to face with pain. When life broke them, they call out every ounce of courage to save themselves and others around them.
The plot unfolds with the demise of Haree’s husband Ram whom she idolised. He taught her to dream, to nurture self-love, and to feel valued. But one fine day he was no more. Haree’s life toppled down and she was back to the hellhole which she had rehabilitated from. Or was it worse? On one hand, Haree has learned submission to fate, while Naina believes in knitting her own fate. She wants to escape from the patriarchal family where the older women burden the girls with the extra household chores. Naina always finds a way out of the work and finds time for herself. Being the outspoken one in the family, Naina is considered the black sheep. While the atmosphere at home smothered her, she finds a reprieve when love knocks on her door. But she doesn’t deserve a life of respect and love, does she? Happiness is at bay for her and the brief period of being loved and valued doesn’t last long. Behind the strong facade, there is a Naina who has a bruised soul who endured the lecherous approaches of the world around her.
Haree, the demure and submissive woman she is, let’s others take the decision for herself. The plot thickens once after the rendezvous of Haree and Naina is introduced to the readers. Further the readers are up for an emotional rollercoaster ride.
The characters of the book have definitive backstories and substantial idiosyncratic behaviours. This helps the readers to relate with the characters and the plot is wrapped around the lives of Haree and Naina. The people living around them are defined by the submission to the patriarchy. When every character celebrates the ‘abnormal’ normalcy, it becomes emotionally tiring for the readers. However the author was tied each tragic incident together to bring them to a heart wrenching climax. The plot seems unbelievable but having witnessed more bizzare incidents in real life, I can undoubtedly say that yes, this is possible.
While the plot was proceeding in a pace that it is, I somehow expected the climax to be a poignant reminder of how, through The Thousand Splendid Suns Khalid Hosseini left the characters haunt. But this one outpassed my expectations and let me be in grief for a few days.
Overall the book is for those who love literary fictions that are high on tragic emotions and that shake us to the core.