“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching – they are your family.” – Jim Butcher
But sometimes, even in the family, everything seems to have gone to hell. What then? I sometimes wonder if a family story where all things are happy and in-place feels right. In every family there is a bit of friction, a bit of misunderstanding or drama. It was the starting paragraph of the blurb that caught my interest, and made me nod in acceptance, though it would have to be a large family to have their share of so many kinds of characters.
Looking back after the read, the story is basically that of the main protagonist Akola (Amirta Komala Lakshmi; kind of understand the reason why she’d want it shortened). It starts off with Akola, her siblings Arjun and Anjana, and her parents Suresh and Parvati house hunting – a very united family moment. After that, the pandemonium is unleashed with a flashback. The first test for the family is the news that Arjun has got his ex-girlfriend Priya pregnant. One angle of the novel deals with Arjun and his attempts to convince Priya to get married. The story moves with that, and through the lives of Akola who is busy with her doctorate, and Anjana who is busy making a name for herself in theater. Throw in two grandparents (Parvati’s father and Suresh’s mother) and a live-in nurse and you have the share of different characters who add to the drama. This novel “How to Screw Up like a Pro” takes us on a bumpy ride through the nuances of this “family” and their journeys, past and present.
Living up to the title and the cover, each character has screwed up in one way or the other at some point in their life. Easiest example for that is Arjun’s story with which we begin – him getting Priya pregnant. Suresh screwed up by having an extra-marital affair when Akola and her siblings were children. Each character feels genuine and has a balance to them. Arjun’s character, other than his “mistake”, is portrayed as a jovial, fun-loving yet protective brother. Even the minor characters involved seem to have a quirk, and they help in pushing the story of the main characters along. One of my favorite characters was that of Thiru, and I wish there was more to their story in the novel. Looking at it deeper, there are aspects like infidelity, abuse etc. explored, but the novel doesn’t pretend that it is about those issues. It is a family story, looking at how a family handles those issues when it crops up. The novel starts out as a light-read, with simple and casual tone of narration helping it along smoothly till the “frightening incident”. The way the author brings out the emotions of each character at that point and from that point is excellent. The book feels a tad heavy then, but it’s normal and realistic of course.
I don’t think there is much to criticize in the debut effort. Personally, I would have loved to read more about Thiru and Akola’s story, maybe another chapter toward that. Otherwise I’d say this book is what it is, a light-read with some twists and turns and laughs and tears; something that can be finished in a few hours and that has enough in it to hold the interest of the reader.
Why should you read it?
Casual narration; for the most part it is a light read and has the feel of a family story.
What you may not like…
Nothing big to say here, but I’d have liked another chapter toward the story of Akola and Thiru.
Title: How to Screw Up like a Pro
Author: Abirami M Krishnan
Genre: Family Drama
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: Rs. 299
(28th June 2014)