An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb.
Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in the London Borough of Ealing after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.
Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.
When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list… hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again.
In her debut novel, Sara Nisha Adams talks of the magic of books and the human connection that they can forge. I believe in both.
I often think that books find readers rather than the other way around. Many a time, I find myself reading something and thinking ‘that is exactly what I wanted to hear right now’.
Similarly, readers are considered introverted and unsociable, preferring the company of books over people. Of course, some of us probably are. Yet, you may find so many of us referring to books that led to great decisions, charitable acts, and good civic sense.
Adams tells you a story of books bringing about healing and comfort during devastating loss. She also manages to remind you why reading books is important without being preachy.
An old widower Mukesh, who visits the library for the first time in his life, and a teenage girl Aleisha, who reluctantly takes up a summer job there, bond over books. These books are from a handwritten list that she finds tucked inside another book. They have nothing in common.
However, their plots align subtly with the lives of the people who read them. The readers find things that resonate with their circumstances and learn from them. I liked the idea of introducing plots of other novels into the plot of the book.
Adams does not discuss the books in detail. You don’t need to read any of them either. She gives you a general idea about them and how Mukesh, Aleisha, or someone else relates to them.
The opinions of those of you who have read them may differ from those of Adams. This is quite natural because your experiences influence your perceptions.
A few questions remain unanswered. For example, what is Aleisha’s mother suffering from? Why did her brother make such a drastic decision?
This did not bother me as the story did not revolve around these two main characters. Adams expertly weaves in their families, friends, and a larger circle of people with whom they interact.
All of them have their own stories of loss, trauma, or loneliness. Although there are potential romances, the emphasis is on friendship and compassion.
I love to read anything about books, libraries, and reading. I chose this book because of its title. I am glad I did.