The Illicit Happiness of Other People. By Manu Joseph.
The title makes you ponder. It is also a mouthful. Almost like a “swear” word. Don’t you feel that a swear word coming out of your mouth is somehow different from the other words that you normally speak? Unless, swearing is how you speak. Well, I don’t swear much. Hardly ever. It just doesn’t roll off my tongue. It is stuck in the space between my Oesophagus and the base of my tongue. That isn’t the case if I am angry. If I am angry, swear words slips out like feet on moss covered stones…no thought is involved.
The book isn’t about swearing. At all. It is a story about a dysfunctional family. Like every other family. But of course, there is a twist in the tale. An untimely, unfortunate death. There lies the mystery. I won’t spill the beans about the Whodunit?! You have to take the trouble to read the book. It is worth your time and effort.
What I loved about the book is the way the author takes you through the family’s journey. There are 4 main characters in the book – the members of the family. Ouseph Chacko, Unni Chacko, Thoma Chacko and Marriamma Chacko. And each, to me, felt like the protagonist. When the spotlight was on that character, they shown through the pages. I could see and feel what their journey was. It was real. Like something we go through in our lives. Not just the actions, but the thoughts and feelings that lead to that action.
The book is unexpectedly funny with its dry humour. There were parts in the book which made me laugh out loud (LOL – yes, it is actually an action) and had me smile at odd intervals. Topics like life, death, humanity, existence, the Truth are dealt with beautifully, sharing interesting perspectives that will make you go “hmmmmm” . We need more of such books (and authors)!!
I found the writing style, for lack of a better word, honest. This is how we are! WE. All of us! And sometimes we find it difficult to even admit it to ourselves. Forget voicing out that thought/ feeling to someone else. I also figured, the best way of writing, is to write what actually happens/ what we think/ what we feel/ what we do. No editing for a better, sophisticated word/ phrase.
I am tempted to buy my own copy…I had borrowed my sister’s to read. This is the kind of book that I want in my collection. To remind me of the finality of my existence when my feet get too large for my shoes. That the choice I have is to buy bigger sized shoes, not chop off my feet. It’s only final when we run out of options. And one of the options is to talk.
You will understand what I am saying when you read the book. And it is true. Even where there is sadness, there is happiness. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor, young or old, abled or disabled, male or female, alive or dead, you are. It does feel a little, illicit. For, we are also part of the Other People.
And I give this book…..