Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review: Family Baggage by Monica McInerney

When I saw the nicely packed brown suitcase on the blurb of this novel titled, "Family Baggage," I knew I wanted to go on and find out what else is in the baggage. Some books are like that. They hint secrets in a simple, non-violent way. This book did, too.

Initially, I felt disaappointed. It seemed to be about Harriet Turner, a young woman in her thirties, who is taking a bunch of old people on a themed holiday tour that is based around a popular UK serial. It seemed to go into logistics of travel, not bringing the characters to life at one go. There were times when I wasn't sure whether I was reading a traval itinery but as the book progressed, it became a journey of one insecure woman whose family background is the baggage. Her relationship with her parents and siblings is deep but clouded by the presence of a dynamic, super confident foster sister, Lara. Lara is just perfectly poised and beautiful. Everyone adores her and the world seems to revolve around her, while Harriet tends to blend in the background, watching her parents and siblings worship her foster sister. The years of anger, jealousy and helplessness erodes Harriet's belief in herself and when suddenly, Lara dissappears without a word, Harriet begins to feel that her confidence is back again and she throws herself into working perfectly, as Lara would have done.

What comes later is how Harriet's perceptions about Lara change with a sudden crisis that rocks the family. The plot also tells us that sometimes we have, over the years, pre concieved notions about our cousins and family members because we don't really know their real story and if we did, our feelings towards our family members would be a lot different.

Though not connected, it also reminds me of something Baba always tells about relationships, "First understand, then adjust." He says that most people adjust without understanding and that becomes a constant source of friction later in the relationship.

This book too seems to emphasize that it is important to at least try and understand others' before we form opinions about them or make adjustments in our life for them with regret and envy than understanding and empathy.

I'd recommend this book as something you can read over a weekend or when you are traveling because so much of the book has wanderlust that will get you singing while you are reading it. Worth a try.

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