A tough, moving story about learning to live with loss. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to the author and Inanna Publications for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel.
In the wake of tragedy, if a fresh start is possible for Kavita? Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy,
From reading the blurb, you’ll appreciate this isn’t an easy read. Side by Side is an unflinching look at loss and, more specifically, survivor’s guilt and the maelstrom of emotions experienced when losing a loved-one to suicide.
However, this is not a depressing book. The story is structured in three acts entitled Fall, Crawl and Rise. As this makes clear, while you’ll reach a point where things look rather bleak for the main character they do eventually start to get better. And although the story is tough, it is definitely worth sticking with, as it’s wonderful to see how Kavita grows through her darkest moments of grief and emerges stronger and wiser.
The reason the story is tough is that we empathise entirely with Kavita. She is always doing her best and struggles on bravely after her brother’s death even though she is virtually abandoned by everyone we would expect to help and support her. I knew the story had won me over wholeheartedly to her side when, at about halfway through, she goes on a short trip to London and I found myself wanting to climb into the book and shake people who were behaving like inconsiderate idiots towards her!
This is an important story. Although work is being done by various individuals and organisations to raise public awareness of mental illness and suicide in a laudable effort to remove the stigma and misunderstanding around both, there is still a lot to be done before we treat those suffering from mental illnesses with as much compassion as those with physical illnesses. Particularly shocking in this story is the lack of consideration shown by those in the medical profession which, from anecdotal evidence merely from those I know who have had similar issues, is often all too true. The apparent callouness of Kavita’s family and friends is also sadly believable. In this way, the book is also a valuable reminder of how little kindness and sympathetic listening cost, but how invaluable they can be to those who need them.
Overall: Side by Side is a compelling story containing a great deal of wisdom about grief and learning to live with loss.
Side by Side is already available in Canada and the US. It will be released in the UK in May 2019.
About the author
Anita Kushwaha grew up in Aylmer, Quebec. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Human Geography from Carleton University, and is a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the Humber School for Writers, for which she was awarded the Bluma and Bram Appel Scholarship. She is the author of a novella, The Escape Artist , which was published in 2015. She lives in Ottawa.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul