Skip to main content

Book Review: Seeing Red by Lina Meruane

The semi-autobiographical book by Lina Meruane is the story of an ocular hemorrhage suffered by Lina, novel’s diabetic heroine. Like the novel’s author, Lina is also a Chilean writer currently in New York pursuing an academic career. It has been long known that there is a time bomb ticking in her eyes, but as to whether it has a long or a short fuse, is not known. She has been asked to take precautions, modify her day-to-day life style, and refrain from jerky movements because any sudden move can rupture her veins and tear asunder her retina leaving her blind. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens.

Lina will now have to make use of the eyes of Ignacio, her new boyfriend, who becomes her guide, helping her navigate the narrow confines of the house, the chaotic traffic on the roads, and the elbowing people on the streets. And when he is not around, she has to teach herself to connect with the world in all sorts of different ways – through sound, memory, and touch.

In a flight to Chile she bristles when annoyance of fellow travelers turns to pity once they realize that her bumbling progress in the aisle is brought about by her blindness. Alluding to the alternate faculties that visually impaired can recruit to manage their lives, she exclaims to herself:

“I am a blind woman capable of detecting flashes of light, and, from afar, also the compassion of others that came after surprise. Blind?”

It will be a while before her doctor Lekz can take her up for surgery. So, he advises her to proceed on her pre-planned vacation to Chile to meet her parents - her emotionally deaf mother, and an ineffective father, both of them medical professionals themselves. But, they cannot offer her much except abundance of love. During her short stay in Chile she relies on her memory to help Ignacio navigate around urban landscape riddled by pot holes and gaps blown in the buildings in the aftermath of Chilean 9/11 moment - the military coup in 1973. During her brief sojourn in Santiago, her lacerated childhood memories coalesce together with her current blindness to alienate her further from her stifling family, a burnt-out friendship, and a city coming to terms with its new political identity.

She returns to New York to undergo surgery that holds no promise. Lekz, her phlegmatic physician, tells her that she may or may not regain sight, and should the surgery not go well, science cannot yet come to her rescue. After her surgery and the most agonizing wait, Lekz probes around her eyes to find out if it is a success or not – a verdict that Lina awaits in terror:

“I wanted to close my eye-lids, both at the same time, and return to the refuge of darkness. That light illuminated emptiness, solitude, my absolute helplessness. I’m still blind, doctor, but now everything is white.”

The novel essentially examines how her illness progressively transforms Lina, her boyfriend, and her elderly mother. Blindness, after all, is a corrosive affliction that threatens all assumptions, routines, and protocols around which they had built the edifice of their lives. And when blindness detonates amidst them, they must confront the questions that fall out as debris.

Lina has to resolve many things in her mind: how to avoid becoming a passive victim of her misfortune, how to turn the adversity to her advantage, and how to dwell amongst the seeing with her invisible present. She will have to borrow eyes from others, eyes that see but impose their own set of realities. How to conform to this reality, to subordinate her senses to others? Ignacio has to confront the limits of her love for Lina and the Rubicon that it may entail crossing. And as regards her mother, she has to choose between two roles - one that is demanded by her daughter’s illness, and the other, that stems out of her responsibilities towards her patients.

Lina’s gut wrenching fury, her debilitating grief, and her instinct for self-preservation combine together to propel the novel towards a climax that is as unexpected as it is shattering.

Ms. Meruane writing is brutal, chilling, and piercing: it claws with its talons, it frazzles you, and it tears you apart with its raw power. There is no hiding because where ever you turn, there is Lina’s world that has vanished, but she is not yet prepared to let it go.


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond

Among all Ruskin Bond books, The Blue Umbrella has, so far, gathered immense applaud from readers and critics alike.  This is a short novel, but the kind of moral lessons it teaches to us are simply overwhelming.

This is a story of Binya, a poor little girl living with her mother and an elder brother, Bijju, in a small hilly village of Garhwal. One day while herding her two cows back home, she stumbles upon some city people enjoying the picnic in the valley. She is enthralled to see them well-groomed and rich. She craves to be one like them and among many other things of their, a blue frilly umbrella catches her attention. She begins craving for it. On the other hand, the city people get attracted by her innocent beauty and the pendant in her neck. The pendant consists of leopard’s claw – which is considered a mascot widely in the hills. Binya trades her pendant off with the blue umbrella.

The blue umbrella is so much beautiful that soon it becomes a topic of conversation for village…

Book Review: A Village in Garhwal by Ruskin Bond

There is no one better than Ruskin Bond to give you deep insights about the life in the Himalayan foothills. He lives in Mussoorie and thus knows the up and down of the hills, nearby and the farthest. You must have read many Ruskin Bond stories on the lives and culture of the Himalayan people living in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Well, this short story, A Village in Garhwal, takes you into Manjari village of Garhwal region. The author spends four days in the village, he was taken there by one of his friends Gajadhar. This village Manjari is located twenty-five miles away from Lansdown, a famous tourist place and center of Garhwal Rifles.

It takes two days to reach this village from the author’s native place. One needs to travel first by bus from Lansdown and then walk for five miles. The village is situated up the Nayar River – a tributary of the Ganges. One morning the author wakes up to the loud vociferous sound of Cicada. This sound reminds him of factory buzzer. The author …

Book Review: The Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond

The Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond is a very nice story promoting the importance of nature through a cute boy Rakesh, aged six. Rakesh lives with his grandfather in a small town of Mussoorie, and there he goes to school every day. For the farming purpose, his parents live in the deeper part of the mountains which is not connected with facilities like school or hospitals, etc.

One day Rakesh buys a bunch of cherries from the market, while eating them, he comes home. When he is left with only three cherries, he thinks about sowing seeds of cherries around his home, since there is barely a fruit tree. In the garden around his home, he throws the seed casually. After rain and winter when the next season of monsoon arrives, by luck he notices the tiny plant of the cherry tree. Thereafter, he grows fond of that tree; however, he remains obsessed with its height. He wants it to grow very fast. When he sees that the tree is not growing fast like he thought, he abandons it, thinking it a waste of…