Letting Go #BookTalk

I spent the whole of 2016 reading more and more of non-fiction books after I’d noted the drift in my reading preferences. While I was doing well on the reading front, I was constantly curious why an increasing number of book critics and the people whom I look up to for reading recommendations were constantly emphasising on reading more fiction than non-fiction.

I could have simply brushed it aside as a matter of ‘individual preference’ had this been an isolated case. But when it happened over and over again, I was left looking for answers on the Internet.

The answer came to me from the interview of Barrack Obama with The New York Times’ chief book critic, Michiko Kakutani, where he talked about why fiction matters.

He said:

“When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify—as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize—is more important than ever.” Storytelling, Obama said, “brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives.”

Ever since I have been working on balancing out the fiction and non-fiction reads I read every month.

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

To celebrate the arrival of my favourite season, autumn, I picked two books that revolve around the theme of ‘letting go’.

#BookTalk Flavours of Autumn
1. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh:
The book is a psychological thriller, full of mind-numbing twists and so engrossing that I ended up reading this 371 page, emotionally draining book in one day. That is a lot of reading done in a day given my slow reading speed.

I Let You Go

The trapped moth by the window pane overlooking a downpour on the beautiful cover of the book fantastically captures the plight of the protagonist in the book.

The tense, fast-paced plot with an astonishing intensity made me relive the roughest patch of my life in its protagonist Jenna Gray. Her miseries were so close to mine that I couldn’t dare put the book down without reading it through to find out if she finds closure.

Though the plot of the book faintly reminded me of the Julia Roberts starrer Sleeping with the Enemy, it would be rather unfair to compare the two.

I loved this book principally because through it I could get a great insight into how chronic abuse impacts the victim. I was able to seek answers to the many questions that had been nagging me since I had opted to move out of my marriage because my ex-husband bears a disturbing resemblance to Ian’s character in the book.

My takeaway from this gripping read is that, no matter how fast or further we run away from our past, it is sure to catch up and if not addressed appropriately, the consequences can be pretty devastating.

If you love fast-paced thrillers that’ll not let you sleep till you’ve read the end, this book is just for you.

2. Invisible Ties by Nadya A.R:
This book with a gorgeous cover highlighting the protagonist’s most prized possession, the bottle green jade mirror, fine tapestry tinted in romantic notes of fresh roses captures the heart of the young girl whose journey is the essence of this book.

Invisible Ties

The book explores the themes of displacement and loss. Noor, the protagonist is a young Pakistani girl battling the demons of having his loyal driver sacrifice his life to protect her. Just when she is beginning to understand the nuances of the troubled life in Karachi she is pushed into an arranged marriage with Meekal, a banker based in Malaysia.

The story revolves around Noor’s troubles in her married life and how she strives to move on breaking free from the shackles of tradition and her painful past.

The book is successful in the careful portrayal of the life of young girls from the Indian subcontinent region who are well-educated but are seldom masters of their own destiny. The poetic, almost lyrical prose, complemented with the author’s love for nature, architecture, history of the Mughal Empire and most importantly, the Taj Mahal come as a whiff of fresh air in Noor’s otherwise troubled existence.

My main criticism is the slow pace of the plot and the hasty ending. On many occasions, the book becomes unbearable with the lack of conversations between the various characters. As the protagonist trains to become a psychotherapist, the book would have surely gained from a deeper introspection (given the author is a practising psychotherapist) than focussing entirely on seeking answers from her surroundings.

This book tugged at my heartstrings because at many points I relived painful memories of the times when I’d been caught on similar crossroads of life, quite like Noor.

This book echoes the importance of letting go of our past only after having made due peace with it. Is Noor successful in accomplishing that, is for the reader to explore.

If you love books that focus on the imagery and architectural history, explore fiction closer to reality then this book might make for a good weekend read for you.

These two books, written, years and genres apart strongly emphasise the importance of letting go of our past for a happy existence in the present. Though it ain’t possible without mustering enough courage to stand up for ourselves and choosing life over death, loss, grief and pain.

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This post is part of the #BookTalk series on the blog where I talk at length about the book(s) I read with personal connection and my inspiration behind picking those.

To know more, please head here.

 

The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner – Book Review

If I could define my life in one emotion, it would be Anger.

My relationship with anger has been an intimate, tricky and rather agonising one. Anger has been my constant companion from the time I was a little girl and I can safely say, it hasn’t abandoned me as yet.

The beauty of my relationship with anger is that with time, I have learnt to understand its value, interpret its language and most important of all, I have stopped trying to find newer (read clever) ways to vent it, as venting anger does not solve the problem that anger signals.

Around 5 years ago, I had written about how anger defines me or rather dictates my life in the post, Anger and Me. This was about the time, when after being burdened by the dilemma as to how could I possibly let go of my anger, I actively started looking for ways to understand the causes of my anger and ways to let go of it.

It was also the time when I felt I had transformed into the angriest version of myself. The burning rage only added to my suffering, left my mind foggy with the smoke emanating from my heart all day long. This was when, in a public forum consisting of women going through a similar crisis in their married lives (I was in the middle of getting a divorce) someone mentioned the book ~ The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner.

 

Dance of Anger

On Googling, I learnt, it’s a self-help book for women that helps understand the anger in terms of what it represents, how it manifests itself, and its constructive use for a peaceful existence.

The blurb on the back of the book read:

Anger is something we feel. It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel—and certainly our anger is no exception.

“Anger is a signal and one worth listening to,” writes Dr. Harriet Lerner in her renowned classic that has transformed the lives of millions of readers. While anger deserves our attention and respect, women still learn to silence our anger, to deny it entirely, or to vent it in a way that leaves us feeling helpless and powerless. In this engaging and eminently wise book, Dr. Lerner teaches both women and men to identify the true sources of anger and to use it as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change.

For decades, this book has helped millions of readers learn how to turn their anger into a constructive force for reshaping their lives. With a new introduction by the author, The Dance of Anger is ready to lead the next generation.

I at once knew I needed to read this book.

Though I wasn’t so sure if reading a book could help fix my anger, I was clinging to the hope that maybe this would be the straw that’ll keep me afloat cause nothing else seemed to be working for me. I searched for the book online and was initially was put off by its cost.

No, I didn’t expect the book to be any cheaper simply because it was a self-help book. But rather, my troubled financial situation at that time didn’t allow me the luxury to afford the book. I added it to my wishlist to help me keep a track on its price and most importantly to not lose sight of it before I finally read it (as it was a highly recommended read).

Two years rolled past and I must say, they turned out to be some of the most turbulent times of my life because now my anger was not only affecting my normal existence but was beginning to manifest itself as physical pain. I would get unbearable headaches, spend sleepless nights, be overwhelmed by feelings of self-harm and worst of all, be fighting a losing battle with my child over every trivial issue.

Though I have been able to join the dots and correlate those events of the past to my anger issues only recently (after reading the book a couple of times).

In the due course of time, I bought the book at a discount in an online sale and was happy that maybe, finally now I had the key to solve all my anger issues.

Right from page one, I was up for another battle. The pain of coming face to face with the raw truths of my life without preparation. It was like being caught unawares, in the middle of my sleep to pose for a camera and say the most intelligent thing without having any time to think.

Halfway through the first chapter, I felt choked, suffocated and too panicked to continue reading. I kept promising myself to return to the book a few hours later, keeping it at a place where I could see it constantly. In hindsight, maybe the fear of change or the possibility of my worst fears coming true had been behind my postponing reading this book.

I couldn’t muster enough courage to read it until 6 more months flew past. This time, not my troubles but my guilty conscience pushed me to read the book, albeit in bits and pieces.

It was difficult at the start but the author’s careful and compassionate exploration of women’s anger through various relatable circumstances gave me an insight on how futile it is to fear our anger. Our anger exists and resurfaces for a reason. It wants to help us and its existence doesn’t make us a devil. This understanding helped me get rid of the guilt I’d harboured for the longest time.

The book set free the ‘nice lady’ I was expected to be but somehow could never become because a nice lady isn’t supposed to express anger openly. It fed my love for introspection and most importantly, guided me to seek answers within. There has been no looking back since.

I no longer seek refuge in, venting my anger, instead have understood that it is only in tackling the issues that make us angry lies the cure to the pain, the frustration and the depression that ensues.

“It is no wonder that it is hard for us to know, let alone admit, that we are angry. Why are angry women so threatening to others? If we are guilty, depressed, or self-doubting, we stay in place. We do not take action except against our own selves and we are unlikely to be agents of personal and social change. In contrast, angry women may change and challenge the lives of us all, as witnessed by the past decade of feminism.

And change is an anxiety-arousing and difficult business for everyone, including those of us who are actively pushing for it. Thus, we too learn to fear our own anger, not only because it brings about the disapproval of others, but also because it signals the necessity for change.

We may begin to ask ourselves questions that serve to block or invalidate our own experience of anger: “Is my anger legitimate?” “Do I have a right to be angry?” “What’s the use of my getting angry?” “What good will it do?” These questions can be excellent ways of silencing ourselves and shutting off our anger.”

It has been a long, introspective journey, but this book has changed my life for the better.

I do not say, I don’t get angry anymore. Neither have I stopped losing focus of the situation when my emotions overwhelm me. Instead, I have learnt ways to make myself come out of the mess (in due course of time) with an open mind.

The beauty of the book is it gives the reader room to think, reflect and feel a connection with our inner feelings without offering a quick fix or listing ways that promise to free us of our anger forever.

The book deals with anger issues sensitively, touching upon the causes of anger in women from cultural points of view that stand valid for women across the world.

With real-life examples of women the author came in contact with during her professional life as a psychotherapist, this book helped me see not only my issues with the people of my immediate family but also helped me understand the obstacles I faced in my professional life.

This book reinforced my beliefs and helped me see some of the very tricky situations, for which I’d been seeking closure in a clear light. This book has been my go-to in turbulent times and has helped me emerge with a clearer understanding when stuck in the doldrums of my life. No wonder, I have read this book multiple times to revisit the lessons learnt.

I have been wanting to make my mother read this book for a long time. However, my mother hasn’t shown any inclination towards reading because she believes she has NO anger issues and isn’t keen on spending time reading a self-help book. Though am not ready to give up anytime soon.

I have now devised a way out. I keep talking to my parents about the lessons I’ve learnt from the book (without obviously mentioning it) at every opportunity and it’s amazing how these discussions have helped us all see our lives in a different light, from time to time.

I highly recommend this book to women of all ages (including those who believe they have no anger issues) and also to the men who want to understand why the women in their lives behave the way they do while helping become the calmer, happier version of themselves.

About the Book:

Title –  The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Pattern of Intimate Relationships

Author –  Harriet Lerner

Publisher – William Morrow Paperbacks

Genre – Non-Fiction

Pages – 241

Price – INR 863 (get the best deal at Amazon)

ISBN – 978-0-7225-3623-0

What has been your relationship with anger? 

*Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let’s do the #BookTalk

I read around 36 books in 2016.

It’s a score I’m rather proud of because I have never read so many (non-academic) titles in a year before. Encouraged by this mini-success, I decided to read or rather try to read even more books in 2017.

“A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then—click—a world opens.” ~ Brad Kessler

In my urge to make it happen, I enrolled myself for the GoodReads reading challenge and decided that I should read at least 50 books in 2017. At the start of the New Year, this goal looked perfectly achievable (as it does look even now because I haven’t lost the mojo) but as I stepped into April, something shifted in me and I made some major changes in my reading pattern.

To start with, I stopped worrying too much about my reading score. This applies to the number of books I’d read as part of the reading challenges, I’m part of. It wasn’t cause I feared not being able to complete the challenge or because I was lagging behind. Instead, because I feel that reading is primarily for personal growth, education, and learning. How many books I read has no bearing on what I aim to achieve by reading books.

In the quest of reading more and more books, I was missing out on a few other goals I’d set for myself this year. I had hoped to review more books than ever before, simply because book reviews have been helping me read more attentively, I feel responsible for presenting my takeaways from the book in a more open-minded, and balanced way.

This calls for investing a lot of time in drafting the reviews and when time plays a limiting factor (like it always does) I am left with a number of books that I read in the past month or so but couldn’t find the time talk about.

Besides, I was not picking up a new book right after finishing one for the fear of losing my initial thoughts of the book I’d recently finished. Adding to this chaos was my inability to review the much-celebrated books because either a lot had already been written about them earlier or I found myself incapable of reviewing those masterpieces.

Re-reading the favorite parts of the books I’d read earlier was no longer happening. Simply because I had been pushing myself to outdo my reading performance. To help achieve this without slowing down my reading pace, I have made a reading list choosing light reads to go in between the heavy books that call for a lot of thinking and no rushing.

I was missing out on recording my personal experiences, the emotions, thoughts and my takeaways (not limiting to the favorite quotes or parts of the book) from the variety of books I have been reading. Though I do share them in every book review I post, but lately, my book reviews have been longer than 1000 words, which can make the reader impatient (though I’d like to think otherwise but let’s be honest) and hurriedly scroll straight to the rating at the end.

Besides, I don’t intend to bombard my blog-readers with too many book reviews. Since this is a personal blog, I believe the readers would be more interested in the slivers of my personal life than mere details of the books I’ve read.

At the core of it all, I am a slow reader who likes to read, contemplate, picture and repeat the cycle. This makes reading an important aspect of my life because I am often left craving to note those emotions on my blog to revisit at a later date, but in the lack of an accompanying book review, that somehow never happens.

This is why, after much thought, I am starting a new series on my blog ~ The #BookTalk

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Wikipedia defines book talk as,

“A book talk in the broadest terms is what is spoken with the intent to convince someone to read a book.”

However, I aim to do something different.

The book talk on my blog is going to be a regular monthly feature where I shall be posting my personal experiences and/or the takeaways from the book(s) I have been reading.

These experiences won’t be limited to book reviews (which shall continue to be a part of this blog) but would include anecdotes about how I heard about the book, why I chose to read a particular book, what parts of the book struck a chord, how could I personally relate to the events in the plot, how the book(s) inspired or changed me and (m)any other interesting aspects of my personal reading experience.

“What is it with you and that book?”
“We have a personal relationship.” ― Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Like the sound of it? Then let’s do it together.

If you’d like to join me in this celebration of the joy of reading, please feel free to link to the series your (new) posts of personal reading experiences that are about any book(s) of your choice.

Paste the image the image in your blog post, link it to this post and use the hashtag #BookTalk.

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Please do tag me when sharing your posts on social media to help me locate and share them further

Most importantly, don’t forget to leave links to your posts in the comments.

Let’s get personal with the books and share our reading experiences to strengthen our bond with these treasures of wisdom and learning.

Are you ready for the #BookTalk?