This book was recommended to me by a friend. This author had written a foreward to the book ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi. I had read this book.
This novel is a story of ‘coming to age’ of a curious boy, who was born prematurely to an unwed mother, a nun and a dedicated nurse. She was a keralite from India. His biological father, an Englishman, whom she assisted in surgeries, was unaware of her pregnancy till the day she gave birth to twins. He disappeared from the place on that day after trying and failing to get both the babies out alive. Boy’s mother died in giving birth. The twins, conjoined in the head, were separated after birth, and were taken care of by the lady doctor, a tamilian from chennai, who surgically separated them with the assistance of their adopted father, a surgeon and the lady doctor became their adopted mother. Their adopted father was a Bengali doctor, trained in Chennai, working in Ethiopia (The characters in the novel are residents of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – They work in a Hospital run by a Christian Charitable Institution). He realizes his dream of marrying the lady doctor from Chennai and she understands and finally accepts that she had also loved him as much. There is a girl calle Genet who grows up with the boys in the same house.
This novel is full of incidents that push the story forward. It was like reading a thriller that too of a medical type. It is a classical novel in the sense that the whole story has a circular form. The troubles and complications start and in the end ultimately everything falls into their places with proper justification. There are too many coincidences. If there are, as some people call, post modernist novels, this one belongs to pre-modernist category. I liked the writer’s skill in drawing a very large picture in a broad canvas, giving proper background in the history of Ethiopia. It could have been written more effectively with fewer words and more realistic way of not everything falling in their places. This is not an ideal world where all mistakes are taken care of and all the good people are saved. We are not so innocent any more. That is why I consider that this novel belongs to an earlier era.
The writer being a doctor has described a lot of medical procedurs which is its strength and its weakness. It could have become a better novel with fewer medical details. This would have fixed the focus on the novel’s strength of telling a larger story. This novel is neither popular pulp variety nor a literary variety. Two stars.