Is this a romance novel? “All Signs Lead Back to You”, the title, certainly makes one think that it is. Having read all but one of the author’s previous works, I couldn’t be sure that that was the case. That’s a good thing, of course. There are so many novels that release in India that are part of the romance genre. What would make this novel stand out of that crowd and ask the reader (me) to take notice?
The future is something that is unknown. While some of us look at it as an adventure, there are some of us who don’t like that uncertainty. What if, at a fork in the road of life, our journey and that of those we care about head in different directions? Will that be the end of the relationship we shared with them? Will that hurt us too much? These questions are something we are afraid to ask, and if we do, we’re afraid to find the answers to. Perhaps it’s one aspect I can relate to from my school days… the trepidation about the next step to college without the friends I spent the last few years making.
It’s such a scenario, the fear of not knowing what lies ahead, that makes Diya Rai do a preemptive strike and break up with her high school sweetheart Ashwin Chowdhury. But the thing about roads is that they may meet again at another junction. Two years later, the two cross paths. Though neither is willing to reveal it, they have the scars from the past, the other’s story unknown. What lies ahead?
In its essence, the story is one of love; but not just a romantic love that Diya and Ashwin may or may not have for each other. The novel also is about the strength of love between two best friends, be it between Nina and Diya, or Diya and Ashwin. And that does matter. Friendship is healing. That aspect comes through beautifully in the story. I like the non-linear timeline. It makes the flashbacks feel like the characters are remembering them. It also brings out the events that led the duo to part ways, while keeping me interested in what the present holds for them.
I like the character sketches of both Diya and Ashwin, drawn together by things in common, even able to relate to those years after. They have both positive and negative sides and aspects that felt real. My favorite character, though, is Nina. The “new” best friend character who seems to just “get” both Ashwin and Diya quite quickly was well thought of. The story is narrated in a simple language and easy to follow, and keeps it engaging as well. I think that that will appeal to many readers too. The book has an open ending, so the future holds for them is still unknown. It feels like a hopeful future though, rather than a fearful one.
On the flipside, I felt the character sketches of Trina and Rishabh could have been better. I couldn’t see much of a positive aspect to their characters, which didn’t feel right. I wanted to know what made Ashwin and Diya veer toward them romantically when their characters felt the complete opposite of theirs and irritable to them too. I also wanted to know more about Diya’s mother. And as a book lover, I didn’t like that Diya dog-eared a particular book. Lastly, I expected a better cover art.
The book shows hope that roads once split can meet again in the future. The parting need not be the end. It is a book that can be finished in one sitting. There are aspects that can be better. But by no means is it mediocre. I wouldn’t say that this is a one-time read. I liked it quite a lot and wait for her next book.
|Title: All Signs Lead Back to You|
(© Vinay Leo R. @ A Bookworm’s Musing
11th November 2016)