My Rating: ****
Commonplaces of both the contrast and the similarity between ‘art’ (here writing) and ‘life’ may well serve as a useful starting point for the review of Soul Cages by L. M. May. While art, for example, is not life, it certainly is life like. Furthermore, while art does not make for something real, it is something realistic most of the time. Therefore, art as well as life closely relate to each other and over and over again run and intersect into each other’s territory. In addition, there is nothing in life which cannot be carved in writing. Even the dullest of characters/events and the most repelling experiences of life can be quite engaging and exciting when used in the art, and hence can be written. However, the ‘crossover point’ between art and life must never be lost sight of. This is what separates lump of life’s experiences from its ‘gathered experiences’ in art. This distinguishing marker of art of course encompasses the process of focused exploring life’s experiences, of shifting and organising these experiences again and again, of expanding and limiting them, and hence transforming and metamorphosing them. The author of this book seems to have moulded the raw material of her life experiences in the light of such requirements and tenets of art-form. This is what makes this writing not only authentic but also sincere.
Now, let us turn our attention to the story and different characters depicted in this beautifully woven tale. This is the story of seventeen year old Marian and her brother Henry (a kid with Asperger). This is the story of Marian’s parents, who are obsessed about finding a cure for Henry by any means leading them under the control of Pastor Andervender and his unconventional church. And, finally this is the tale of John (pastor’s son) and Marian’s struggle to protect Henry from pastor and his eccentric and weird methods to cure Asperger. An intensive analysis of the story and different characters of a novel like Soul Cages reveals an author who not only asks some fundamental questions about good and evil and their roles in human life, but also finds her own answers in them. Furthermore, in doing so, she grafts a realistic narrative, thus ensuring that her questions and answers are firmly rooted in cultural beliefs.
The book has an interesting interplay between Marian and her parents. The interplay between Marian and her mother, in particular, shows a contrast between two diametrically opposed attitudes to life. The reader will be struck by the concreteness of this interplay, by the sharp sensory observation upon which it is based, by the simplicity of narrative, and the focusing upon significant points of actions depicted in the tale. The effect of these and of the extreme clarity of language brings home to both the nervy, over-responsive psychology of Marian’s mother, and the unclogged, incisive directness of Marian. John has also been depicted as a strong character whose words and action violates accepted manners and every tradition implicit in them. He is one who is the embodiment of will, who affronts the assumptions and despises the values his other family members live by.
This novel certainly delights us. It successfully creates the illusion of authentic social reality while presenting a wide variety of people. This book genuinely brings blend of humour and compassion, preposterousness and bleakness, fantasies and frustrations, and illusions and ironies of everyday life. At the end I would just like to say: A pleasant reading.
(Disclosure: I won a free paperback copy of this book through a Goodreads’ first read giveaway contest)
Description of the BOOK
(Title: Soul Cages, Author: L. M. May, Year of Publication: 2011, Publisher: Osuna Publishing, ISBN: 13: 978-0615870465, Paperback, Pages:239)