The narrative is fast paced and there is wry humour and commentary that gives tantalising insights into the lives of people and the circumstances they live with in the book. Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is one rollicking journey: it is also the tag line written on the rear of Ajo’s truck. That a book about a boy who grows into an impotent man does not end up as racy and cheesy lies in the mood and tone of the writing. It could have ended up on a different note but instead, it keeps readers thoroughly regaled by the anecdotes and insights that Ajo discovers while talking to his ‘bird’.
The story follows Ajo Kawir after a horrific incident where he is emotionally scarred with physical manifestations. Though it isn’t shown as such, the witness of a woman being raped by two corrupt policemen who attempt to force him to do the same has traumatised the young boy and later, he suffers throughout his life for it. Of course this book was hard to read but it was also brilliantly written and shown in such a matter of fact manner that it throws you, the reader, a bit.
WHAT I LIKED
The author takes something that would be a comic pulp man’s movie and turns it into iterary fiction that is still darkly funny. Truly nothing less can be expected from an award winning author but he did rise above expectations, he nailed the book, he deserves a standing ovation, he…..okay I’ll stop with the distasteful pubs.
But I mean the book is literally about a guy whose thing can’t stand up. That itself is pretty much the punch line of toilet humour but the author somehow takes it and makes it seem serious and life alteringly important. We end up caring about this man despite wanting to burst out laughing at various points and that has to be the author’s amazing writing skills at play.
Also it does involve a bit of psychological analysis to see how impotency can affect a man and make him change and I am so glad the author didn’t go the usual route of turning into a raging psychopath. Instead he takes a funny story and turns it into a social and emotional read, analysing boyhood, coming of age and societal reactions to things all the while keeping us laughing with Ajo and his conversations with his bird. I also loved the female characters in the film, though I’m not sure how realistic some of them are since I’ve never lived in Indonesia. But they felt well thought out and well written and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with the book.
WHAT I DISLIKED
I did feel that the transition in the middle of the book would have either been smoother or more stark. It just left me a bit in the lurch before I got back into the rhythm of things. Of course that could very well have been the author’s intention to let the reader feel as thrown as the character felt, still, a smoother transition would have made it easier to enjoy.