By Roopa Farooki
Published: Pan; Sept. 2009
Synopsis: At 23, Asif is less than he wanted to be. His mother's sudden death forced him back home to look after his youngest sister, Yasmin, and he leads a frustrating life, ruled by her exacting need for routine. Everyone tells Asif that he's a good boy, but he isn't so sure.
Lila has escaped from home, abandoning Asif to be the sole carer of their difficult sister. Damaged by a childhood of uneven treatment, as Yasmin's needs always came first, she leads a wayward existence, drifting between jobs and men, obsessed with her looks and certain that her value is only skin deep.
And then there is Yasmin, who has no idea of the resentment she has caused. Who sees music in colour and remembers so much that sometimes her head hurts. Who doesn't feel happy, but who knows that she is special. Who has a devastating plan.
My Take: I am mildly uncomfortable writing this review. Maybe it's because I feel bad because I don't know why I didn't really like this book. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was the book. I don't know. I've been sitting on it for a while but it's not coming to me. Ultimately, I think it's the fact that the characters really got under my skin and that was probably not the hope of the author and what does that say about me? These are philosophical debates I am not sure I want to have so let's just go forth here and discuss.
I picked this one up because it was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the topic intrigued me. I've read a few books lately where the main character has autism, this seems to be a popular one of late. I enjoyed 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' and 'Lottery'. Yasmin, in this story has Asberger's she is 18. Her parents have passed away and her older brother Asif is caring for her. Asif was probably the character I liked the best in the novel. He was genuinely sweet and was trying really hard but man his life sucked. He had to give up all of his hopes and dreams to take care of Yasmin. He seemed to be out of his depth. Their other sister Lila is dealing with her life a little less well and has a lot more resentment towards Yasmin and so is not a good choice as a caretaker.
The story goes back to how it used to be just Lila and Asif with their parents and then when Yasmin came along they felt like they no longer had a mother. I thought it was really sad and hard to read. I can imagine as a mother you wouldn't really know what to do. The child with autism needs your help more but you shouldn't really desert your other children. However, every time Yasmin didn't get what she wanted all hell would break lose so that's exactly what happened. It was really uncomfortable to read.
In present day, there is now a documentary to be made about Yasmin because she is considered high performing so that's kind of where the action centers around. A lot doesn't 'happen' so to speak in the book. It's more felt, portrayed. Things are lived through, feelings are dealt with, people try to progress as humans. It was hard for me to read. Basically if I don't like most of the characters, its hard for me to form a bond with a book, however I think others might like this more.
If you have read this, what did you think?