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Book Review: You Cannot Have all the Answers and Other Stories by Deepa Agarwal

Well certainly as the title suggest that in our life we cannot have all the answers no matter how hard we try or go berserk with inquisitiveness. This situation is quite pragmatic in life and on the similar lines we have this book by Deepa Agarwal - You Cannot Have all the Answers and Other Stories – a collection of fifteen unique, engaging, and a bit dark tales which features female protagonists in each story. In short the stories are placed around females, mostly all ages.

While reading this book, you may come across various stories about women that take place in our societies, though may not every day, but somewhere for sure. The book has very intense theme, some people may take it as dark, because here we see how women get trapped by the time clock and circumstances that force them to either accept this life with full womanhood or go ahead as a rebel. A close look reveals that it is the duty and compassion towards family and society that binds a woman into rite of passages, on the other hand it is a web of desires and smell of freedom that sets women on the route of self-exploration and independence and society always gulps it down with suspicion.

The great aspect about the book is its timeline; you will find stories from partition era to contemporary modern time. In the book, you will find stories about various themes that we can think of while living in a society, like prejudice, inheritance, unrequited love, betrayal, childhood memories, sex and lust, guilt and redemption, compromise and so on. All stories are told enigmatically with a subtle undertone of beauty and magic that not many can grasp in one attempt. This leaves readers reeling with half-quenched but at the same time they will read and try to decipher the meaning hidden behind every question that the author has chosen not to answer. As a receiver you will be forced to think as ‘why and how did it happen’ kind of dilemma with every story. 

The collection subtly appeals to the patriarchal system of the society that the women you mistreat or leave behind or think of inconsequential value are worth more gold as they too have their own stories and their stories shape everyone. Though the book has a dose of feminism, however it discreetly tries to broach the questions that we often prefer keeping suppressed. Deepa Agarwal’s unsettled yet charismatic narration surely lifts this collection to a point of being timeless.


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