This is one of those rare book reviews that I’m doing. I usually avoid book reviews – being an author myself, I find the task too personal. More often than not, I imagine myself in the author’s shoes, and I try to imagine what kind of a book review he/she would expect. Or hope for. The answer comes easily for me, having been on the other side of the transaction many times. But this time it’s different. This time, it’s Amit Sharma I’m talking about. And Amit’s not any author. He’s a damn good one.
Amit and I’ve known each other for a long time, never in person, but through our words. We used to be frequent commentators on each other’s blogs for more than a decade. I’ve known him to be a funny, witty, and talented writer. I don’t know what he thought of me, back in the day, when toilet humor used to be my claim to fame, but he kept coming back to read my drivel, more out of pity, I think.
And while I’ve continued to write drivel, Amit’s moved up in the world, and has finally published his book. False Ceilings, which was released in January of this year, is, in a nutshell, fantastic.
I confess that I took my time with this. For a lot of reasons, I couldn’t finish the book in the time I told him I would. And I think he gave up on me a long time ago. But, I did finish the book, and I’m so glad I did. The book is a fascinating read. The characters, the plot, the dialog, and the flow of the prose is strong enough to keep a reader hooked till the end. The second half of the book has more meat, and moves much faster than the first half, I thought, and once you get to the halfway mark, you’d be foolish to stop.
We all have secrets. We all fail to keep some, and succeed in keeping others. But when a secret has the ability to run someone’s life, would you still keep it? Would you be compelled to hold your silence? I don’t know about myself, but Amit’s done a fascinating job of guiding his lead characters through these morally oblique questions of life. The internal monologues, the machinations of a vengeful mind, the loyalties of a few, and the betrayals of others are laid out spectacularly well.
The book does not hurry you. It does not jump to conclusions. There is a lot of patience in the plot. You’ll know if you’re ever written something – the temptation to jump ahead in the narrative is always a threat that authors face. The story has already been laid out in the author’s mind, but to narrate it in a way that impacts the reader in the same way it does the author is a painstaking process. And Amit’s done this wonderfully well. Even when he talks about grief, pain, violence, and societal issues, he does not falter.
In the interest of being brutally honest, I wish the book would have been edited better. I could spot a few minor errors in grammar and punctuation, and I wish I could’ve ignored them. Amit’s language is very good, but whoever edited the book did him an injustice. I wish that these will be edited out in the next version.
Overall, I think it’s a book worth picking up and reading twice.