Publisher: HarperCollins India
Published: January 2023
Buy at: Book Depository | Amazon | Add to Goodreads
Two women. Strong yet fragile. Two women who couldn’t be more different from each other. Two women in search of their identity. Interweaved with two cities, Calcutta and New York. Calcutta felt claustrophobic for one. New York represented freedom for both.
Under the canopy of the day, you could see, from this distance, how shattered the world was that we lived in and how beautiful its dust.
Anita, born in privilege and at times unlikable. A misfit who cannot wait to break free. We follow her story across decades from her home in Calcutta shared with cousins to the grimy bars in New York. Flawed, rebellious, and unapologetic. Refusing to settle for less and always making her voice heard. Who finally finds her calling as an author and insists on micro-managing the launch.
In contrast, her childhood friend Anjali struggles with motherhood, a chauvinist and gaslighting husband, and tries to make peace with her life in a suburb in Ohio. Whose simple pleasures of window shopping and eating out feel rebellious. Who finds the need to defend decisions although she might not agree with them. A character we don’t know much about but one that is extremely relatable.
Much like Anita and Anjali, the cities of Calcutta and New York could be characters of their own. Breaking stereotypes of heat and dust, Calcutta represents wealth, family, and privileged life. In contrast, Manhattan and the fast life of New York are replaced with grimy dive bars and the suburbs.
Not Quite a Disaster After All by Buku Sarkar is a series of six vignettes across decades and two continents. A book about how our expectations from life change over the years. Between self-destruction and survival.
In all its starkness, the cover well represents the book. Scruffed. No filters. Laying it all bare. But with the promise that lies ahead across. Much like the author’s photography, her writing is sharp-edged. Feminine and unapologetic.
It is always important to choose. To know life didn’t happen to you, but was a consequence of everything you did.
Similar to a short story collection, some of the vignettes stay with you and some leave you wanting more. Sometimes coming a full circle. Sometimes not. There is no beginning, no end, just a slice of life, a no holds barred intimate look. Warts and all.
The charm of the book is the evocative prose. Right from the first paragraph that draws you in. The anxieties. The rebellions. The wins – big and small. By no means a light read, it is a book that makes you uncomfortable. A book that makes you think. It is an impressive debut and I am looking forward to reading more by the author. If you enjoy layered characters and narrative, do pick up the book.
About the author
Buku Sarkar is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in various magazines and journals including NYRB, n+1, Raleigh Review, Threepenny Review, The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Mint Lounge. Her photographs have been exhibited at ICP in New York, Art Basel, Miami, and venues across the US and Europe and she has been featured in Fleur and Arbor magazine and The Photographers’ Gallery, London. She received the Andrew Nelson Lytle Award for the best short story in 2021. Her photobook Photowali Didi was published in 2022. Buku lives in Kolkata and New York.
Follow her on Twitter: @bukusarkar and Instagram: @bukuisback
I received the book from the publisher HarperCollins India in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla in collaboration with Mads’ Cookhouse.
March 14, 2023 @ 12:26 pm
I’d like to get hold of this one. Thank you for sharing.
March 17, 2023 @ 2:28 am
Depiction of two friends done so well in the book, I was taken aback to read how Anjali faced so many harsh events and her complete character portrayal It really enchanted me. Also, I kept on thinking the line you write on how our expectations from life change, which is really deep.
March 17, 2023 @ 10:00 am
It’s interesting how authors bring their own shades of life in their writing. Anjali and Anita could be nay of us. We all have different aspects to life and view it differently, but we all need each other to bring that stream of consciousness into our lives. Sounds like an interesting read.
March 18, 2023 @ 1:08 pm
A fantastic review of what seems like a fabulous book. Will surely try reading it especially after your well detailed review.
March 18, 2023 @ 3:17 pm
If the book captivates you from the first page… it must be an interesting one Ritu. And from the way the story is woven and the starkness that u have spoken of… it looks inviting.
March 18, 2023 @ 4:13 pm
I loved the cover and thank you for explaining it, Ritu. This is one read I cannot miss. I like stories that make us uncomfortable and live through our thoughts for a long time.
March 18, 2023 @ 8:46 pm
Ritu, you have a unique taste for books and sometimes I wonder how you get hold of these amazing titles. Thank you for this review. Going by the story, this seems to be amazing. Do you also have a youtube channel where you review books? Just curious!
March 19, 2023 @ 10:28 am
It would be good to read the different shades of life faces by 2 women in this one book, I like the way you have put up the review.
March 19, 2023 @ 12:25 am
Its long time now that I read a book of friends as characters and after reading this wonderful review by you I can make out that this book matches my taste. The book managed to grab your attention from the very first is something that indicates it managed to hold the attention of a sincere and serious reader like you. In life to survive we need to face many harsh barriers in life and that what makes life meaningful in real terms. Will read the book for sure and thanks a ton for the recommendation.
March 19, 2023 @ 12:36 am
Seems like an interesting book to read. Two different lives in two different cities of two friends sounds interesting, adding it on my TBR list.
March 19, 2023 @ 10:33 am
The book cover is interesting and name is captivating. Your review is excellent. I would give out a try. Thank you for sharing.
March 19, 2023 @ 11:55 am
The plot is intriguing annd I loved the charecter development of the protagonist. I would love to give it a read. Thanks for this amazing review.
March 19, 2023 @ 12:07 pm
From your review, it seems like Buku wrote about her split personality, living in Calcutta and New York. They are diverse lives there and here. I go to Mexico for the love of my grandsons, but I am not at all happy with that lifestyle. Dark books are a real no-no for me.
March 19, 2023 @ 1:58 pm
This looks like an intriguing book to read and a female led one as well! I always feel like I have two sides having grown up abroad and then moved here, so seems right up my alley
March 19, 2023 @ 2:23 pm
I don’t want to sound superficial but I love hard bound books! Everything sounds perfect about this book: Bengali writer and the story spread across 2 of my favourite cities in the world! Definitely giving this a read!
March 19, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
I totally agree with you on your opinion that this may be a light-read book but it would definitely make you think. And that’s exactly why I’m starting to love it! Great book review you’ve done on it!
March 19, 2023 @ 5:55 pm
As you mentioned .. By no means is a light read a book that makes you uncomfortable. A book that makes you think. It made me think about buying or not… However, I feel that literature has the power to explore complex and challenging topics, which can often be uncomfortable but necessary conversations to have. By engaging with difficult books, we can broaden our understanding of the world and gain valuable insights into the human experience. So while dark books may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and mine too, they can provide a practical and thought-provoking reading experience for those who are willing to engage with them.
March 19, 2023 @ 7:21 pm
Layered character that sounds like a great read adding this book to my reading list as I like to read well-written written characters.
March 19, 2023 @ 8:49 pm
I love fiction that shows strakness & reality. Your review of this book makes me want to read this. I don’t mind a heavy read if it has a great storyline. Iam sure I will enjoy it as I have done in the past with many of your recommendations.
Noor Anand Chawla
April 28, 2023 @ 11:47 pm
Both the cover and the story are enticing me to pick it up!