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Book Review: The Way Home by Shalini Mullick

Book review by Writer Smita Das Jain

"He was like a saint. And being married to a saint was not easy."

- From The Way Home by Shalini Mullick

The Way Home by Shalini Mullick is a profound journey of cathartic healing through the medium of friendship that develops by serendipity. The book delves into the importance of acknowledging one's grief as a pathway to healing, a core message that is not new but is conveyed with a fresh perspective through the medium of fiction. The author skillfully avoids the usual tropes of romance and thriller, opting instead for a character-driven narrative that stands out in its authenticity and depth.

The story revolves around three protagonists: Anya, who lost her elder sister to a shooting in the US; Neel, who struggles with the pressure of not living up to the career achievements of his illustrious parents; and Roy, whose self-confidence has been shattered by a heartbreaking relationship. Each character is meticulously crafted, and their realistic situations ensure that readers can relate to at least one, if not more, of them. Their paths cross in Goa, within a medical setup that is vividly brought to life by Shalini's expertise and familiarity with the locale.

The camaraderie between Anya, Neel, and Roy is both believable and refreshing. The author lets the romantic angle develop in an understated yet organic way, ensuring that it does not overshadow the primary theme of friendship. This subtlety is refreshing and adds to the book's charm.

However, what I found missing in The Way Home is the sensory experience that I associate with Shalini's writing, especially after her delectable first book. The narrative includes many summaries compared to scenes, resulting in abrupt transitions that can disrupt the reading flow. For instance, the narrative shifts from discussing a character's parent to focusing on the protagonist within the span of a few sentences, affecting the immersive experience at times.

Despite these issues, the book is peppered with memorable lines that resonate deeply and linger in the reader's mind. Some of my favourites, that also encapsulate the core themes of the book, include:

\\ After all, memories are all that remains when all is done and gone. And it is those memories that we will look towards whenever we need strength.

\\ To live your dream life, you must first articulate your dreams and work towards them.

\\ Not all that looks fixed has healed.

\\ Life always has a plan. Sometimes we don't know what it is. Still, we just need to have the belief, the faith and trust it does.

In addition to its messaging, The Way Home stands out for its portrayal of the complexities of human relationships. Anya, Neel, and Roy's struggles, triumphs, and growth are depicted with a nuanced understanding that makes them feel real and relatable.

The book is a poignant reminder that healing is a journey, one that is often made easier with the support of friends who understand and share in your struggles.

Shalini has once again demonstrated her ability to pack myriad emotions into her writing, leaving readers both satiated and yearning for more. The Way Home is a worthy addition to your reading list, whether you're looking for something different and entertaining or something profound without being overbearing.

My rating for the book is 4.2/5, for its concept, message, and relatable writing. Shalini has delivered a thoughtful and engaging narrative that is not the usual run-of-the-mill.

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