by Namrata, Blog Correspondent
Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram scared the daylights out of me, in the literal sense. No, it doesn’t talk about ghosts, vampires or of paranormal stuff you cannot see. It talks about the nightmares you see daily, the sexual offenders!
Sweta Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books who believes in the power of stories. Based in New York, she writes about women and multiculturalism. Louisiana Catch is the story of Ahana who is a grieving daughter and abuse survivor who must summon the courage to run a feminist conference, trust a man she meets over the internet and escape a cat fishing stalker to find her power.
Ahana comes from an influential family and has had a very sheltered upbringing. Like is the case with our society, we often tend to ask our daughters to mellow down as a result of which they grow up as confused individuals who are constantly looking for support. Ahana faces this reality after the untimely death of her mother when she is left to fight her own battles herself. Till then she never realizes the amount of emotional dependency she had on her mother.
After her divorce Ahana carries a certain amount of guilt and shame for the failure of her marriage, due to the culture she has grown up, refusing to acknowledge anybody else’s fault in this. She is trying to work towards an international conference for domestic violence survivors and in the process ends up meeting two charming men on the internet. Charming because that’s what they seem to be at the first sight, till their masks are removed towards the climax. Dealing with all that comes her way and preparing for the global conference is taking a toll on her sanity. The story tells us how Ahana braves the odds.
I wasn’t surprised or annoyed at the way Ahana behaves throughout the book. Maybe because it was how I have seen women in India behave. They could be at the pinnacle of success in all that they do and yet be completely unsure of them. This book depicts the fragility of human relationships very well. Most importantly this book talks about boundaries and space. Many times we fail to understand the need for personal space and a boundary in terms of allowing people in our life. Thanks to technology, these boundaries have become narrower and we need to stop allowing people to suffocate us.
If there is one thing I cannot talk enough about in this book, then it has to be the language. Ahana’s pain, apathy, fears and trauma are so palpable. There are certain scenes where I actually wished I could hug Ahana just to comfort her. Ahana made me cry, she made me laugh and in the end she gave me hope. The author brings alive the fears women face in India on a daily basis. There were many passages where I had to literally shut the book just to come back to reality. The fears are real; the eve-teasing, groping, molestation that happens in broad daylight is a nightmare women in India live through. Kudos to the author for keeping it so relatable!
The secondary characters of Dev, Jay, Rohan, Chutney, Naina, Lakshmi and Josh are well etched, making it an engaging read. The best part is they all are real. Each one of them is flawed, far from perfection and that is what connects with the reader. There is not a single dull moment in the book. There were many moments where my heart skipped a beat or two because of the unexpected twists in the plot. Though the plot is simple per se, it is the manner in which the author has layered it with a poignant narrative that makes it intriguing. The story takes us to New Delhi, New Orleans and New York, giving us a glimpse into the life of residents in those cities. Reading about these places was akin to virtually touring them, thanks to the splendid and accurate descriptions by the author.
I love how Ahana rises from the ashes like a Phoenix in the end. She finally learns how to stand up for herself and faces her fears bravely, giving life, love and relationships another chance. Defining her boundaries, she now takes control of her life. It wouldn’t be wrong if I can call this book a “coming of age” book for an Indian woman. Our social conditioning is such that by the time we understand the need to stand up for ourselves we are middle aged. But that shouldn’t deter us from doing so. I would recommend this book to each and every woman out there; for this is the inspiration we all need to fight the ghosts in our lives, both inside our home and outside.
Namrata is a lost wanderer who loves travelling the length and breadth of the world. She lives amidst sepia toned walls, fuchsia curtains, fairy lights and shelves full of books. When not buried between the pages of a book, she loves blowing soap bubbles. A published author she enjoys capturing the magic of life in her words and is always in pursuit of a new country and a new story. Read more of her work on Twitter, her creative writing blog, or her reviews blog.
Photo by João Silas, Unsplash (featured) and Namrata (in line)