Sunday, 21 March 2010

Roopa Farooki: The Way Things Look to Me

The Way Things Look to Me is a redemptive modern fairy tale - where the Good get their just desserts and even Horribly Horrid Humans are redeemed by Love. Sounds really trite when reduced to that, but the book is much, much more profound.
There are 3 voices in the novel, Asif, the eldest brother of an orphaned family, 23, an accountant by day and a carer by night for his 19 year old, autistic sister, Yasmin, whose obsessions rule his life. Lila, his younger sibling, doesn’t live at home any more. She is an art school drop-out, who has a succession of crap jobs and sexually exploitative relationships. Where Asif is sadly resigned to his restricted life, Lila is angry and bitter that her childhood has been stolen from her by the limitations of her sister’s condition. She has often, truthfully, wished Yasmin dead so that they could all be free to lead normal lives. The guilt she suffers because of it, is destroying her.
The third voice is that of Yasmin, whose life revolves around repetitions, and the endless white noise of the compulsively remembered details of every day, every moment of her life. The way that Farooki gets inside the landscape of Yasmin’s mind, voicing her thoughts, is remarkable.
As the book opens, all their lives are about to change, as a documentary TV unit begins to make a film of Yasmin’s life.
One of the best things about the novel is its structure - the voices repeat in a musical sequence, and Farooki takes the reader expertly backwards and forwards in time, aiming everything towards a conclusion that is moving and utterly satisfying without a tinge of sentimentality.

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