This is one book that completely defies the adage – ´Don´t judge a book by its cover´.
Why did I pick Ramya Gundala´s book for review? After reviewing two non-fiction ebooks in the row, I was looking for something in the fiction genre. I scanned through some of the fiction books in the carnival and zeroed in on this particular book.
What caught my immediate attention was the intriguing grid cover page of a girl with her back facing the reader and title of the book – Á way, Not away´. The cover caught my attention right away and I decided to test read the book. I scanned the first few pages of the book and was pretty impressed with the little trailer already. I immediately decided that I was going to review this book right away. And, I am so glad that I did.
Ramya Gundala is a passionate writer and an electronics engineer who crafts stories currently based on her day to day life. A Way, Not Away is her first collection of short stories, which are compiled from her blogposts for April A to Z Challenge 2017. She blogs at https://shortfictionrg.blogspot.in/
The book is a collection of fictional short stories based on the theme of strained love and relationships.
This book is laden with stories of imperfect people and even more imperfect relationships. It looks at relationships as what they are – complicated, difficult, essential and liberating. Therein lies the beauty of relationships – in its flaws, contradictions and darkness.
Without giving away too many spoilers, let me give a quick review.
A way, not away – The first story sets the tone for the theme of strained love.
Brain Vs Heart – This one is a letter talking about being cerebral in the flighty matters of love and relationships.
Conscious Conscience – This story delves into the power of intuition and eery success predictability of premonitions.
Different Perspectives – It is a refreshingly hopeful take on relationships, as difficult as some of them are.
Extraordinary match – This one brought a smile on my face as it takes an unbiased look at ´matches literally made in heaven´. It shatters this whole myth of horoscope and starry matched compatibility with an ironic story.
Fair Tale from the Rainbow Kingdom – This is my most favourite story in this book. I love the marriage of fantasy and wisdom all rolled into one delightful read.
Garnish with a lemon wedge – I love this story for its randomness and pensive musings towards the end.
Hashtag Hopeful – Another story which not only brought a big smile on my face but also something I could strongly relate with it. I had an exactly similar story of an Aunt who is a hard-core Feminist, having spent all her professional life researching women´s rights and gender inequality. She did her Phd in that area of study and I could easily see myself as the protagonist and my Aunt in the shoes of the Aunt in the story. This one for me was reel life imitating real life.
Isosceles – I liked the analogy of friendships to an Isosceles triangle. Very creative!
Just Another theory – Again one of those random, quirky and philosophical stories from the author.
Keep Calm and Win – One wise story of how Silence pays off at the end. It´s a story that highlights the power of emotional intelligence and how it trumps every other life skill in this race of life.
Lighter Hue – Another of my personal fave for its creativity. This story is about Good Vs Evil and I loved the use of colours, narrative strategy and style. Brilliant!
Mirror Mirror – Again, one of my favourites. I loved how myopic and hypocritical most of us can be when we dole out advice to others caught in exactly the same situation as ours.
Nothing but the best – This story is about a manipulative girlfriend, ´blind in love´ boyfriend and a helpless third friend who sees through her friend´s game.
Occasional Love – All about ón and off´romances and convenience.
Payback Time – This one is dark and focuses on the passive-aggressive behaviour and revenge aspect in regular relationships.
Qwerty Syndrome of Sorts – Again, a random philosophical story about perceived compatibility in love and friendships. This one shows off the creative prowess of the author.
Remembrance – Nostalgia laden.
Super Me – This story is about being the best version of yourself and excelling in whatever you do. And how much is too much!
Touchdown – This is the only story in the book that deals with the parent and child relation. It is a simple, sweet and relatable story for all parents and children.
Unity and Diversity – Another personal favourite. Maybe, because I like to see hope in relationships.
Value Education – Again, a slightly dark story riddled with guilt and learnings.
Wake up call – A dark story of how the protagonist is being manipulated cleverly and smoothly to fall in love out of her own will. And how – deep and hard!
XXIV / VII – An unassuming story of the realization that one has fallen out of love.
Yearning – A story on how distance and absence makes the heart grow fonder in some cases.
Zebra Factor – Yet another story of misunderstandings and the havoc they create in relationships.
From the design to the layout to the title to story content – Everything is par excellence.
The book is like a chess masterpiece. Everything from the design, layout, story is so well-strategized. There is so much strategy and thought that has gone behind most of the stories that is simply incredible.
This little collection of short stories is an extremely engrossing read and a tease, if I may add so. I was blown away by how deeply profound the stories were. They are definitely not your ´run-of-the-mill´ stories on love and relationships. There are no explicit frilly details as one would expect from a twenty something writer on this theme.
The book is very mature and sensible. Far from sermonizing, it is immensely pensive in tone. Yet, it is light and laced with humour. I honestly believe that humour is a sign of intelligence. Ramya´s flow of humour is completely natural and not forced. Picturize these two lines from the book in your head –
´I had zero interest in knowing what was going on in their personal lives, especially because Nisha already publicised their perfect, mushy love story so much, that my face now has two hearts shaped eyeballs. Almost.´
´I didn’t understand how cutting friends made love stronger. If her theory was right, then she will have no friends soon and I’ll be the only one who has to listen to her daily updates. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does she think I look like I care when I really don’t?´
This book is a hidden gem according to me. It is such a treasure and so under-hyped. I have been reading a lot of Indian bloggers, writers and authors of late and it is rare to find one of this author´s calibre.
Creativity, wit, logic, balance and wisdom – All these come very naturally to Ramya Gundala and makes her writing style truly unique. To say that I am mighty impressed with this creative potent force would be an understatement. Considering that she is still in her twenties and this is her debut, Ramya has a very bright future as a writer ahead.
The book fails to sustain the same momentum of sheer brilliance that it started off with in the concluding few chapters of the book. From offering the readers such delectable reads in the beginning, some of the stories towards the end seemed rushed and plain vanilla in comparison. Don´t get me wrong! Not that they were bad per se, but they weren´t as extraordinary as the other stories were.
If I could give more than 5 stars for this book, I would. It is simply in a different league altogether. A cut above the rest, may I add!
You surely don´t want to miss this one! I would advise anyone from newbie to experienced writers to read this little gem of a masterpiece.
Take a bow, Ramya Gundala! This one should make you very proud as should its readers.
(You can download and read the book Á way, Not Away here: https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/a-way-not-away-by-ramya-gundala/)