LIFE HAPPENS TO US by Ashta-deb

LIFE HAPPENS TO US

A True Story
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut author recounts her life as the youngest child in a dysfunctional family and her decades-long struggle to find inner peace and love.

In 1972, when the author was 9 years old, her sister Neelam committed suicide by drinking weed killer. Neelam was only 13, and the repercussions from her sister’s tragic death would permanently tear apart a family that was already fracturing at the seams. In her memoir, Ashta-deb clearly describes the challenges she faced. She was born in Guyana to a family of Indian heritage. All but her paternal grandmother were Hindus. The family, both immediate and extended, had a complicated history of loving closeness and intermittent, traumatizing violence and verbal abuse, a cycle that would repeat through the generations. In 1967, Ashta-deb, her parents, and her two older sisters, Neelam and Priya, moved to Toronto. When her father mysteriously returned to Guyana in 1971 (the author later learned he was wanted by the Canadian police for embezzlement), the rest of the family eventually followed, although her mother made repeated trips back to Canada. By this time, each of her parents had taken lovers, her mother in Canada and her father in Guyana. Gradually, Priya and later the author and her mother returned to Canada. In an emotional, well-written, but often disturbing narrative, Ashta-deb recalls her mother’s repeated abandonments and incessant criticism: “How you looking so ugly?” Much of the heartbreaking book centers on the author’s attempts to understand her own unstable behavior, first via psychotherapy and then through intensive meditation and kriya yoga. (The work should particularly appeal to yoga enthusiasts.) Determined to build on her “heightened clairvoyance and extraordinary abilities,” she participated in various retreats and pilgrimages to India, which she details vividly and extensively. She also shares with readers her spiritual visions (for example, she, like her grandfather, has seen the date of her own death). Her decision to ingest a psychedelic mushroom to deal with persistent clinical depression seems to have brought her clarity: “The psilocybin forced me to open doors within myself that I was too afraid to do with my conscious mind.”

A poignant memoir that chronicles a harrowing personal journey and explores the more mystical aspects of yoga.

Page count: 275pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
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