The Autumn or Fall season is my favorite time of the year. It’s neither too cold, and it’s nippy enough to cozy up under the cocooned layers. I was fortunate to experience Fall in all its glory when living in the US. Just thinking of it makes me miss the places even more now in these pandemic times.
But something came along, just as close as a sweet compensation. ‘A Fallen Leaf,’ a Penmancy anthology marking their first anniversary.
It’s always exciting diving into an anthology by multiple authors as you get to read diverse perspectives on a common theme. ‘A Fallen Leaf’ is like a delectable buffet spread, where you get to sample, taste, and relish every story within its pages.
The book starts on an impressive note with ‘Canary in a Coal Mine’ by Rianka Saha. It’s a refreshing take on the stereotypes women face, and the rampant patriarchy among Indian royalty.
‘The Mis(fit)’ by Saravjot Hansrao has a straightforward plot. But what makes this story particularly shine, is Ms. Hansrao’s writing style, full of chock-a-block, tongue-in-cheek humour.
‘A Mosaic on the Garden Floor’ by Sharanya Mishra is a whimsical take on the fallen leaf, literally, as it sways from place to place, sweeping us off our feet with its stories. Sometimes heart-rending, sometimes heartwarming.
‘Refugee’ by Kaushik Majumdar has a predictable storyline, and yet it grabs and holds your attention until the last word, by which time, I promise, there’d be a lump in your throat. It has one of the most impactful endings in this collection.
‘Hope’ by Srikanth Singha Ray explores the psychology of fear and how it cripples and chokes human potential and progress. Ray’s message is – For every problem, there lies a solution. Hope. If you want a quick shot of inspiration, go for this one.
‘Useless’ by Shailaja Pai lies in the women’s fiction genre. It conveys the message that to get respect, you need to earn it, as the protagonist, Nisha, shows us. Riddled with self-doubt, she overcomes her blocks and the stacked odds towards self-actualization.
‘The Torchbearer’ by Sreemati Sen Karmarkar has an interesting storyline, which explores unexpected terrains when you least expect it to. The author pushes the envelope as far as her imagination goes to give the reader a thoroughly entertaining read.
‘Varied Moods, Varied Seasons’ by Sitharaam Jayakumar explores the changing seasons of life through the changing seasons of weather. A tender love story and bittersweet family drama comprise the crux of the story. Another story that ends on an exquisite note and leaves you moved to the core.
‘The Funeral’ by Nilutpal Gohain is easily one of my favourite stories in the collection. Contrary to the story’s title, it’s hilarious from start to finish and leaves you grinning from ear to ear as you flip by the pages. It’s very well-written and makes for an easy, light read.
‘Behind the Bars’ by Kajal Kapur stuns you with the author’s storytelling prowess and impeccable writing skills. One of the most memorable stories in the collection for its intense plot, gripping narration, unexpected twists, and turns, I was wowed by this one. My favourite quote also comes from this story.
“There is no retract, my friend. Once done is done. Even if we can escape the law, we can never escape our scruples. Our conscience is bound to kill us a million times each day.”
‘Second Chances’ by Kavita Kandaswamy is an endearing love story in the making and a pleasant addition to the anthology. The title is indicative of the storyline, which has a dreamy, celluloid-like quality to it.
‘All for the Blossoms’ by Em Kay makes for a beautiful read on the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson. The characters are well-etched, and I loved that the author chose an elderly woman protagonist and captured her dreams and aspirations so vividly.
‘The House’ by Chandrika R. Krishnan stands apart from the rest as it has an inanimate object as the narrator. As a fellow writer, I was intrigued to read more from this novel perspective. The story explores the breakdown of a joint family and therefore the house, and the hopes of a restoration.
‘A Tryst with a Twist’ by Olinda Braganza’ starts on a familiar note, but don’t get fooled as the story stays true to its title. It is the only story in the thriller genre and does complete justice to it. Braganza shocks the reader with a bizarre twist that you wouldn’t even conjure in your head and finishes the story with elan. I loved the plot and ending of this story.
“I was finally perfect.
I was finally home.
Then why did I feel unhappy?”
“Two Pilgrims” by Rham Dhel appealed to the inner spiritualist in me. It reminded me of Jesus Christ’s quote, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I loved the surreal climax, as Peter, one of the protagonists in the story, meets his end. It will stay on with me for a long time and makes a worthy ending to this fabulous fall-themed collection of fine short stories.
If you are looking for some nuanced short stories that make for a warm, cozy read, go for ‘A Fallen Leaf’ by Penmancy writers. There’s also fall-themed poetry written by Olinda Braganza sprinkled inbetween the stories to get you in the right mood. It’s worthy of your time and buck.
You can purchase the book here: https://amzn.to/3gcFuIB
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