Book Review — The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee

Book Review — The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee

Publisher: Penguin Hamish Hamilton
Pages: 240
Price: Rs. 499 INR(Hardcover), Rs. 1200 INR(Paperback)
ISBN: 978–0670092789
Buy here: https://amzn.to/31xBt9O

Mira is a teacher living in the heart of Suryam, the only place in the world the fickle Rasagura fruit grows. Mira lives alone, and with only the French existentialists as companions, until the day she witnesses a beautiful woman having a seizure in the park. Mira runs to help her but is cautious, for she could have sworn the woman looked around to see if anyone was watching right before the seizure began.

Mira is quickly drawn into the lives of this mysterious woman Sara, who suffers a myriad of unexplained illnesses, and her kind, intensely supportive husband Rahil, striking up intimate, volatile and fragile friendships with each of them that quickly become something more.

About the author:

Rheea Mukherjee’s work has been published in Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, LA Times, Huffington Post, Out of Print, LIT magazine, and Bengal Lights, among others. Her previous fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a semi-finalist for the Black Lawrence Press award. Rheea holds an MFA in writing from California College of The Arts in San Francisco. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and currently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore.

My take on the book:

Suryam a small Indian city is the only place where the Rasagura fruit grows. Mira a resident of this city, and a teacher by profession lost her husband recently in a road accident, less than an year after their marriage. One day she meets Sara and her husband Rahil in a park, as she notices Sara having a sudden seizure. That chance encounter quickly turns into deep friendship. and soon an obsession for Mira whose life was pretty uninteresting and lonely till she met this couple. Where will Mira’s relationship with Sara and Rahil lead her forms the rest of the story.

The story line about three individuals sounds simple, until the characters and their multiple layers are revealed. Mira has her own struggles with the past of her mother’s illness and untimely death, grief from losing her love Ketan and the loneliness that followed. Mira’s only relief is her extensive reading of World history and trying to teach her students, beyond their syllabus. Mira’s obsession shifts from history books to Sara as she relates to Sara’s illness like her mother. But Mira also gets quickly drawn to Rahil further complicating her relationship with the couple.

The story is intense from the beginning, the characters unapologetic, and strange at times. However, as the back stories of each of them starts unfolding, their behavioral traits make sense, revealing their insecurities, their grief and pain. The analogy to the Rasagura fruit can be understood only after completing the story. Mira’s narration of history and Sara’s philosophy on the body and soul connect and Sufi music help explain their varied behavior.

The story is not sugarcoated and hence suited only to those who enjoy real characters. The mental health issues raised through Mira, Sara and Mira’s mother only reflect on how deep emotional scars may never leave a person and how the society often fails in supporting them or understanding them. The entire story is narrated by Mira and as she mentions at the start it is her perspective and truth that the reader gets a peek into. I would have liked to know more about Sara and Rahil beyond Mira’s narration.

The Body Myth is an intense, emotional roller coaster ride which leaves the reader wanting to know more about the protagonists and get deep into their psyche.

My rating:

4.5/5.

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