Written by Nilanjana Haldar
Alright! Standing ovation for author, James J. Cudney!
This book has earned my respect on so many fronts!
In not much variation in commentaries from many others who have reviewed this book before, I have to declare that the author, James’s choice of writing a novel that circled around the plights of women (a gender different from the writer’s) in different challenging life circumstances in society, mesmerised me with a whole new level of respect for the writer, as well as his creation.
I was absolutely amazed reading (in a question I made to the author) that he finished writing the entire novel in a matter of 6 months. I have so much to learn from the author.
The novel speaks about a girl’s search for her father whom she knows nothing about, the secret of which is only barely known to her mother, leading her to choose locking up this personal life detail inside a chest that would forever remain unopened.
This is the first time a book could so vibrantly depict to me the direct effect of growing up fatherless. The book nourished me with the experience of suffocation a child feels when she grows up without a father and has nobody in the world who would invest a shadow of care in extending to her even a fragment of this knowledge. I learnt, like never before, the level of powerlessness a child in so trivialised a position feels, unincluded from the contentment of being bubbled within a complete family which every other outsider might seem to relish so well as to take it for granted. Coming to think of it, we (you and I) cherish so much of this bubble of being “familied in completion” that we barely notice how much of an unrecognised haze of safety it secretly ushers into our lives.
These children are sadly so powerless! Makes me really sad.
Next, this author’s writing is a masterpiece!
I’m certain that the author of this novel discovered the existence of stepping-around, body-coloured individuals even in the process of creating them! 🙂 🙂
If I have to sum up author James J. Cudney’s work, I will state this:
There are nights when instead of wrapping our heads around people well-dressed at an outdoor party, we unobtrusively tilt our heads heavenwards only to fathom the stare of stars that we glanced at many times before but cared not to wonder about. In such distinguished nights, we are able to fall away from the crowd of people, while being in the midst of it, and discover existence on a mighty scale, and understand a realm beyond words. When people look at us then, they don’t see the depth of what is happening within us. James’ writing is an extended version of this in-depth experience, so continuous throughout his work, that the wondrous process seems almost simultaneous and not a break from a mundane start. To clarify—->throughout his novel, I halted not once, twice, thrice, but many many times simply to fall back on what I had just read and read it back just so I could let the phrase/s or sentence/s melt through my brain, and sit there for a while, to finally leave me with a very satisfying smile. That’s how good his writing is! This is the perfect analogy I could come up with.
The author was able to craft characters completely out of his own imagination (not from real life experiences) some of whom matched people from my life in so many ways. Astonishing!
So I have to say, much like “To Kill a Mockingbird” this book made me deeply grasp the beauty of a father. I recall putting aside music, phone etc in the vehicle one day and begin chatting with father and losing myself in asking him about his day, merely after reading a chapter in the book (in Kindle). I have not changed since. Everyday I put aside all personal stuff and spend time with father and mother whenever time allows, whatever time I discover. What a rewarding development a book had on me!
I was tumbling down the stairs of the initial pages reading about the lives of Amalia and Brianna and their surrounding people, and was quite sullenly supplied by reminiscences of people enormously likened to every side character, being dampened thus.
Now the part I was trying to get to…. this dampening of my spirits heightened my interest in the author’s craft because I forgot for a straight while that I was anywhere but with the characters created by the writer. Moreover, it is very easy to get attached to a particular character and flounder in the emotions that he or she floats in. That didn’t happen here. I found a different person in my own life ( somewhat distant mostly) very impeccably aligned with the every other person the author introduced to me.
Moreover, the author was able to incite a very strange development within me, unintentionally Ofcourse. One character called Shanelle is someone I very much resent. But I discovered that this immersion in resentment was something I yearned. Weird! Never happened before!
Hence a bee-hive of experiences came to touch upon me perhaps at every corner of the novel.
Additional lessons I learnt from this novel:
1) Even when Brianna was stretched beyond the natural limit of endurance of the relentless, unrestrained maltreatment of the devil of her mother, she admirably checked herself from unleashing all her rage and screams-for-justice at the very moment when she had a physical advantage over her own devilish mom. This was because she had realised this:
But she couldn’t hurt the woman. It would make her no better than her mother. After she’d picked up the table leg while her mother closed her eyes for the last time, Amalia swung hard and beat the table in frustration.
The lesson here is—> Hurting back another for the hurt they gave you, makes you no better. Apt, 100%
Think of the times we stroll around judging others as being judgemental towards us. Does that make us any better than them? Because in judging them as “JUDGEMENTAL” we are judging them too. So, who’s right? Neither! So Amalia here sets an example of self-awareness, of taking the high road regardless of what life throws at us (her life, to state briefly, was one of the saddest I have read so far).
Wow! Wow! Wow! I am amazed that despite the many puddles of devastating events and heartbreaking scenes that were conjured up in the short time of reading this novel, the author reserved these spotlights of lessons in the midst of them, which carry enormous personal-growth messages for each and every one of us.
- We can’t blame ourselves for things that are beyond our control.
This is stated by Molly, Amalia’s mother. I’m sure a message like this will be deeply beneficial for so many of us! Ego loves to blames others or direct blame inwardly. Ego is full of nonsense! Don’t listen to it! Truth is, in the end we don’t really control anything.
- This third lesson is especially meant for every single individual experiencing trauma. We love getting sympathy and care (playing the victim, translated as the ‘Ghulami’ in Hindi forgetting our life is entirely our responsibility. The lines from the book that embody this lesson are (although the citation is for a different reason here)—> “Don’t play the role of a poor little ingénue who can’t even figure out how to cross the street without someone holding her hand. Grow a pair. No one can make your future happen but you.”
This line was stated by a lady at a pub, who Brianna was checking out.
- “Life is complex, Brianna. It’s not always black and white, good or bad. There’s a lot of gray in between. Sometimes we have to suffer through something difficult to find that solitary ray of hope.”
A myriad of lines stole my heart forever:
- In a farewell talk with her rapist, Molly makes this statement—> “You’re a perverse fate we all had to suffer”
- The description of a love-making between Amalia and Jonah was the most dreamily beautiful way of describing so passion-electrified an event. The beauty became uncontrollably relishable because, to say the least, I found an angelic personality in Jonah—a life that is brimming with compassion, cheer, happy and gallantry, all undisguised and so honest and natural that it lacked the need to be donned for specific times only. This was used to describe the energy of searing passion that swirled Amalia’s body right before she made love to Jonah. The line is concluded so beautifully:
By the time she reached his front door, Amalia had forgotten the car ride, the walk up the front path, and her boyfriend, Carter. All she thought about was the consuming energy soaring throughout her body—a shooting star with no end in sight.
The vast beauty of certain personalities can only be wrapt up by a wordless expression. So I choose a surreal music to depict the vastness of the ethereal goodness which I discovered in the personality of Jonah, enough to rob me away from my generic, poorly-explored stints in articulation with the drab, limited quality of mere words. This is the piece:
It is in this uninhibited goodness in a human and a woman unflinching in her parade against a cruel world, that time lost character and disappeared, and the world as it were ceased to be, for in their moment of oneness they had compositely cut off circulation from the throes of an immodest world. Because I sensed every bit of this timelessness throughout the description, I could deliver the experience in no different delight from the original. (To repeat—there is a reason why I say the writing is a masterpiece)
- No Provocative questions gnawed their way out from the inside.
- “ Carter pulled at his hair and dropped his hands as angst assumed more control!
- Remember Jonah I just described with the music piece above. Well, the line that elated my prisms of appreciation, revolved around a distant bleep of memories that drifted in Amalia’s mind long after she was no longer a part of his life (for reasons that didn’t actually rift their bonding but threatened their lives….it is really sad!)
“She never got over the losing of Jonah, only packaged him in a box hidden deep within the recesses of her mind.”
This line reminded me of a small quip Rose states in Titanic, after she is old and has finished telling the entire story of Titanic’s sinking and meeting Jack, to the Blue-stone search-team. She says, “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.”
- Burying all that Riley had done to her, locking it away in a box that had no key , had been the hardest part.
- Jonah with his name drawled longer than she could stand, the last sound pommeling Amalia’s consciousness before she cloaked herself with the protective coating and reared for the consequences of ever allowing herself to have faith again.
- A mental movie displays in our lives by the time we reach middle age when we step into parallel worlds like our own which distinguish themselves from the original in that they harbour our desires, unlike the ones we reside in. I was deeply enchanted by this consideration made by the author in the novel through the lines quoted below. To add, it seethed all through my cells in the form of echoes that called after Amalia (the one being referenced here) when she began picking bits and scraps of her life in a new city, all alone and by herself. Here are the lines by the way:
“In a different world, Riley had never been born, and she had Jonah all to herself. In a different world, Carter never came to Brant with Greg but married some girl like Rachel’s sister. In a different world, she and Bryan fell in love that first summer and left Brant to build their future together. The options were endless, but the visibility into such a world hadn’t existed until now.”
I have come by readers who are badly impatient to get to the end of a novel, who condemn books simply because it has exceeded their personal length-plan of a novel-read. I have noticed traits of this in myself too in the past. But reading “Father Figure” has made me deeply aware that certain novels actually cannot follow others’ stereotypic plan for a book, instead the vastness in the characters’ experiences serve to take a person in the journey the book is intended to offer one”- why so much impatience for the end when the pages were meant to seeth one with the life experiences of another, and in this case, usher you with the complete peekhole of despair in a fatherless girl’s life.
A moment of sitting with Brianna’s unhappiness and one is able to acutely discover just how deprived a child is who is stumbling across a world that not only removed her from a chance with a father but iron-locked away every single information that belonged to him, opening doorways of societal nastiness that the presence of a father ( at least until the maiden years of one’s life) is quite easily ‘heroed’ (nonexistent word in Oxford but loved creating it!) to protect anyone against ( we did it didn’t we? As children? Well, Brianna/Amalia never had this chance and she lived in a silent envy and shame amongst others with complete families, for having no father to pass such stories to). The vitality of this novel’s topic is so profound that one cannot miss the enormous pillar of strength and home one’s blood father is for a person’s life. This book made me acutely aware that a father is someone whose whole life’s happiness is wrapt up in his daughter and for this insight which formed an enormous theme through the book, I am forever grateful to author, James.
If you take one moment to immerse yourself in this emptiness the author has tirelessly tried to sketch in every page, ensuring he missed no detail along the way, you will hear a still voice inside you that wishes to overthrow moments when you discounted the presence of a father in your life. You will find yourself shudder at the very thought of being in Brianna’s shoes and you will come to rest in the knowing that you REALLY are very lucky to have a father, to have a go-to-place for every cheer, win, cry and comfort. It is so easy to remain close-minded to the pain of another but the author has made enormous effort to depict to be world just what it feels like to have zero knowledge of one’s source.
But…but ….the but…I felt my face widening to assume an enormous smile by the end of the book! The end’s not airy-fairy by the way so I loved it all the more! 🙂 You can discover yourself why that happened! There are some very deep lessons for life towards the end, which I choose not reveal! But they will be a guiding light for so many fatherless people in the world. I recommend you pick up this book. Everyone must really!
This is a must-read novel. It teaches so much about life in silent preaches, in the colours of conversations, emotions, the opening-and-closing of room doorways, college rooms, creeks, lakesides, journals, corrupting one’s mind rewardingly with the realm society would so badly want anybody to ignore—the realm of imagination! The entire story was imagined by the author, but you will, in good will, find yourself wondering by the end of the novel, if that is a lie!
It’s not a lie but the way 🙂 but you will find a conflict in fathoming the realness of imagination for a long while, long after you have ended page 418 of the novel!
Such a beautiful feeling I am left with having read this book! I am heaving a sigh of appreciation now! This really is true bliss for me—to have a chance to allow a novel like this to consume every part of me, so I become one with it for a while! 🙂 This space and time of my life is a service from the writer to my life. Why? Because I had a chance to live in a world where outside a stream of images, words, and emotions, voices, and colours, nothing commanded a second of my self. NOTHING COULD! 🙂
Buy the book by clicking the link below–>