An Isolated Incident, by Soniah Kamal is a novel that keeps you hooked, all the way through to the end. It doesn't leave you even after completion. From the tragic beginning where a horrific crime is committed, one is transported and enthralled by this powerful, engaging story. A terrible crime happens, labeled as 'an isolated incident' ironically. Lives are lost. One life is shattered, but the rippling effects of this isolated incident stretch far and wide, changing lives and destinies. The protagonist, Zari Zoon, has to reclaim the shattered pieces of her life. Her story is compelling, moving, disturbing, haunting. Memories of one's history, if not addressed or acknowledged, can be emotionally debilitating, for we are part of our past, and history's tragedies affect us. It's almost as if they are carried on through our genetic make up. Zari's story delves deep into the issues and complications of the eternal conflict of Kashmir, India, Pakistan- and nations scarred by conflict. The scars of war run deep. So deep, they continue to haunt generations. If you feel deeply, you hurt deeply. Billy and Zari's story, is also a love story. It offers hope, that despite the unspeakable horrors in this world, there is a way to rebuild a life that's broken. A beautiful first novel. Heart-wrenching, soul-stirring and poignant. I look forward to a second novel.
Note : This review is up @ www.readmuse.blogspot.in
I’ve always regretted not visiting Kashmir when I had the opportunity to do so. My dad resided in Jammu for quite some time and used to describe its endless beauty. He obviously left out the ugly injustice being served to this beautiful place. Since then, I’ve had this fascination with Jammu & Kashmir. Of course, I always knew that beneath the beauty lies a state marred by wars and ridden with unspeakable sorrow. Having never read a proper literature account associated with J&K, I was more than eager to read this book.
The story is a about a simple Kashmiri girl Zari who loses her family and undergoes a major trauma. She then relocates to USA under the ruse of pursing her education. Her life changes dramatically after Billy comes to her rescue. But then, Billy has his own share of emotional baggage in the form of a burdening past to handle. I can’t possibly elaborate more about the story for I would be depriving the reader of a life changing experience.
The narration is filled with raw emotions. It’s been long since a book affected me in such a way. Reading a tale of unspeakable and horrendous injustice experienced by a woman left me choking with unspeakable sorrow. Zari’s narration seemed so realistic that I truly wondered if this story wasn’t a figment of imagination.
I really wouldn’t believe that this writer is actually a rookie to Lit Business. The narration, the plot and portrayal of emotions were almost perfect. If at all I had to find a flaw, it would be with Billy’s story line. I could connect with his feeling of lost identity, but his decision to flee USA didn’t pack a punch for me as it normally should. This could be attributed to a slight slack in narration in that part of the story.
The characterization was perfect and all the characters had so many facets that at one point I wondered if they were actually modeled after real people. Again, if I really had to find a negative with characterization, it would be with that of Zari’s. A trauma obviously changes a person’s character. I couldn’t understand much of Zari’s character before that “life altering” incident.
The cover deserves a special mention. It clearly depicts the beauty of Kashmir but in shades of Brown, which obviously signifies the struggle and injustice.
This book changed my perception of Kashmiris and made me understand why they would actually want a separate country.
The book also re-emphasized a lesson that my parents drilled in me. Love and compassion are the ultimate medicine to any trauma.
VERDICT: A must read for all who whine about the injustice of life. Definitely not for the faint hearted.
‘An Isolated Incident’ follows the life of Zari Zoon, a Kashmiri girl. She could the girl next door, with a typical life and typical problems even while living under the threat of terrorism at all times. That is until an incident changes her life forever and she is sent abroad for a new beginning. But the new life and the journey towards it could tangle up Zari’s life yet again.
First and most important element of this book is the character of Zari. She belongs to Kashmir – a state under the constant threat of terrorism. Even with everything going on around her, she manages to build a somewhat normal life for herself only for it to be snatched away from her. She then embarks upon a new life in a new place, yet the threat never really goes away. Zari is such a character that you cannot help but feel for. The author has done an admirable job in building her up and portraying her life. Then there is Billy with his own fair share of baggage. Billy’s character could do with a bit of polish and fine tuning. I failed to connect with this character and his decisions.
The plot in itself is another fantastic element that includes a lot of issues. For instance, it gives us a look into the lives of the Kashmiris in general. It also includes a glimpse into the world of a girl who is sequestered by a, sadly enough, a very common incident and it makes you wonder about our society that is such an expert at victimizing the victims. The author has done an incredible job of portraying the situations without pointing fingers or sounding preachy. There were twists and turns in the novel that were easy to spot and though the ending was quite predictable too, it was really interesting to take this journey with Zari.
This is a well written novel with crisp language and detailed narratives. The author has set the book in multiple locations and each come with enough description so as to help the readers’ imagination. It was also a refreshing change from reading the commercial love stories that flood the Indian markets constantly.
Overall this was one hell of an emotional roller-coaster ride that wrenches your heart.
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