A House Is A Body by Shruti Swamy
In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities.
In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.
A House is a Body is packed with twelve short stories that share a common floor of unavoidable change and the ultimate acceptance of it all as the collection opens doors to many places, perspectives, and possibilities through characters that are dipped in blue.
Trigger warnings: grief, depression, sexual assault, loss of loved ones, animal cruelty.
A woman finds herself blinded by the darkness of depression after being left by her first husband, after the death of her second husband, after having no option left but to live with the unscrupulous younger brother of her late husband because two children needed to survive too. This one leaves a bad taste in mouth but a taste you shouldn’t choose to ignore.
The death of a sister and the cries of a baby makes this story about a couple mourning yet living. A prose filled with descriptions of everything blue—blue tiles, blue walls, blue towels, blue skirt, and a blur air. Needless to say, the blueness is synonymous and indicative of the tears that haven’t flowed.
MY BROTHER AT THE STATION ★★★★☆
A short prose from a sister whose brother has always seen what she and many never can. With a mysterious trail of dark thoughts, conversations that are borderline scary, and an end that doesn’t satisfy as much, this story starts off strong but isn’t the best.
THE SIEGE ★★★★★
First of the stories set in antiquity, a queen runs through the rules set for her a woman, the parts she couldn’t jump into as a woman, and the unfortunate bits of happiness she gets from a girl in the gardens. Damp with the grief of losing a young son and the appalled looks upon suggesting surrender during a war since death is inevitable, this is one of the best stories.
EARTHY PLEASURES ★★★★★
A mix of mythical and surreal, this story around a young woman meeting the Hindu deity Krishna against an urban backdrop is also painted with blue strokes. The serenity of this mythical realism is gently portrayed by poetically describing even the simple acts of being a human—like crying. One of the longer stories, it stays in the heart for even longer.
WEDDING SEASON ★★★★★
Two women in love attend a family wedding where the promised progressiveness of people is challenged when the protagonist’s choice doesn’t fall within the traditional boundaries. Complexity clashes with simplicity because love is love but isn’t deemed as love by everyone around, in this story of sneaking feelings.
THE LAUGHTER ARTIST ★★★★★
A mystifying story of a woman making art out of laughter, displaying it on the canvas of what makes life, of what makes one afraid, of what lies ahead if not nothing. The saddening realities of being a child of immigrants, a daughter who couldn’t see her mother during the last moment, a person who wants to cry, and a person who can only laugh. Easily the best of the collection.
NIGHT GARDEN ★★★★☆
One of the experimental ideas, this quick story at the very last is concise, crisp, and curt as it plays a face-off between a cobra and a dog in the dark night, and the conversation which is actually a caustic argument draws highly from a married couple driving towards the destruction of their marriage.
The rest of the stories are intriguing, enticing, and poetically worded but dangle on a bar of personal taste. While each of them hold the possibility of soaring high or falling flat, they do make a tapestry on which the above great stories can shine. Overall, an excellent collection that is meant for lovers of short story, unconventional prose, and unexpected unfolding.
This post is written for a promotional blog tour organised by the publicist themselves and a digital copy was received via Netgalley but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion.
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