THE GHOSTS THAT COME BETWEEN US by Bulbul Bahuguna

THE GHOSTS THAT COME BETWEEN US

A family drama inspired by life events

KIRKUS REVIEW

In Bahuguna’s debut novel, a girl comes to terms with childhood abuse through love, education and family.

A stream-of-consciousness prologue opens this novel with questions about life, God and the meaning of everything. It’s a move that places the reader squarely inside Nargis’ fraught existence. Exactly what’s wrong isn’t clear, but it’s obvious she’s suffering mental and physical distress. Bahuguna uses that entree to segue into Nargis’ difficult story—from a childhood in India in the ’60s, schooling, falling in love, a bout with tuberculosis, a subsequent stay in a sanatorium in Russia and raising a family in a Chicago suburb. The path this endearing narrator takes is filled with bumps. The main issue, though, is Nargis’ relationship with her father. Bahuguna writes: “Daddy would call all the shots in the family: How we should be educated, what language we should speak, how we should behave, and how we should think. And also, how we must dream. He would even decide our relationship with God.” Over the course of several years, he would also molest Nargis. As a way to heal, she not only moves away, she writes an account of her entire life, which takes form as this novel. “As you can understand, I have been hesitant about telling my story, at the risk of remorse over self-disclosure and the agony of feeling the pain again. But nothing can stop me now.” It’s a difficult story, but one that is well-told. Nargis is a relatable character and Bahuguna approaches her plight with grace and sympathy. The supporting cast—her father, mother, siblings and boyfriend—is well-drawn, and the family drama that ensues is efficiently handled. Bahuguna notes that she, too, has lived in India, Russia and Chicago, and she’s able to colorfully develop each setting. In the introduction, she writes that her work as a psychiatrist inspired her to create Nargis as a composite fictional character, with the goal of enhancing “the awareness of abuse issues.” That background information, which complements years of Nargis’ back story, would be better suited as a postscript, though, so the reader could approach the text from Nargis’ perspective. Bahuguna’s evocative prose is also peppered with references to pop culture, Indian terms (a glossary appears at the end) and flowery but appropriate language.

An insightful, graceful read that’s slightly overextended.

Pub Date: March 15th, 2013
ISBN: 9780985422219
Page count: 447pp
Publisher: Drona Productions
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2012




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