405 pages in 4 days – That’s how I finished reading Runaway widow. This is was my first time about quite a few things – First time I read Dr Eva Bell, first time I read a story line on Demon (Bhuta) worship, matriarch system, and having a non living element as a significant character.

Arjuna, Tara’s pale and sickly husband, had a better and much deeper impact on me than Sekhar, for his innocent ways – his earnestness to assist Tara know Alphabets. Wish he had been given him a little more edge in the story than the self seeking, unreliable, ever busy Sekhar who remains pre-occupied about his work and his colleague plus love interest Thelma, and suddenly is unsure about his feelings for Tara, which clearly hints at his mind that dwindles with circumstances. Though he was launched as the savior for the damsel in distress or like he is called in the book, as a Knight in shining armor, he remained too petty a character, and may be that is why, his motives to suppress facts for his mother’s sake was predictable, a character with flaws and yet, believable.

Unlike him or Tara’s father Vasu, the women in this book are strong, determined with a mind of their own and sensitivity – be it the protagonist child widow Tara or her mother Sarala, her foreign aunt Reeni , Sekhar’s mother Dechi, even the sacrificing Thelma and the well meaning Carmalita, Tara’s nun friend from the school – all of them had the common trait to be slightly uncommon, be above average. There is enough fodder and characterization that has the reader thinking about them, more than the men and keep us glued to know their fates.

However When it comes to the slave girl, Madura, she really steals my thoughts – the power of quiet strength – her selflessness, her loyalty, her timidity – though far-fatched and I cannot draw much parallel – still reminds me of Khaled Hossein’s Hassan in Kite Runner. That is precisely why I liked Ranjan, who without much knowing of his heart’s inclination, kept pursuing Tara for reasons he had conditioned himself to believe were his goals. While the book is about Tara, her life, her adventures, her confidence, it was Madura all the way for me.

The only non value-add was Arif – The story does not require this character at all. In fact Professor’s passion for theatre and Tara’s stint in acting was so formula based, that I found this piece a total misfit in this otherwise, engaging story.

The maroon-saried blouseless women, talking to the cows, the Demon worship, bullock card rides were all a virtual tour away from the city and that visual will remain in mind for a very long time. This review is not complete if I do not mention the final character – The Thinking Rock. It was almost etched like a personality without a nervous system, but with a reflection like any human and this will haunt us writers about the mastery of its introduction in the plot and its role in the climax. Kudos to Eva for teaching us that!!

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