Book review by Namrata
Title: The Prospect of Miracles
Author: Cyrus Mistry
Published by: Aleph Book Company, 2019
The Prospect of Miracles revolves around the life of Pastor Pius Philipose or rather, his death. Interestingly, in this long-awaited novel, author Cyrus Mistry’s primary character is a dead man. His seemingly natural death is perceived as unexpected to his adorners while his wife experiences the opposite. The rest of the story is about what everyone including his wife think of him.
Mistry — the novelist, needs no introduction. His novel Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2014 while his other works have also won many awards and accolades. However, it must be noted that this is the first time, he has moved beyond writing about the Parsi community. Almost all his previous works revolved around the culture, with primary characters also being Parsi. His early works were clear reflection of all his observations of growing up as a Parsi in Mumbai. Few years ago, he moved to a non-descript location in South India which seems to have largely inspired him to write this story.
Set in Kerala, the story has the fragrances of that state neatly wrapped within. From lush cardamom farms, to the coconut trees swinging in the air. From the delectable flavours of the local delicacies cooked in coconut oil to the festive celebrations throughout the year — this story has it all in the backdrop while the core story unravels for the reader. While talking about the culture and traditions of Kerala, he also talks about the oppression and the staunch belief system prevalent there.
Reading Cyrus Mistry’s work is like walking through years of patriarchy prevalent in our society. Clearly reminiscent of one the many characters from Anita Nair’s literary gem Ladies Coupe, this book promises to leave a reader perplexed. With a complex array of characters and a non-symmetrical plot line, Mistry invites you in a world which is so similar to the real world and yet so different.
Growing up we have been always taught how we should never talk ill about the deceased. But what if we have no good memories of the dead? What if pain, hurt and anger are the only ways we relate to them? Picking up bits and pieces from real life, Mistry weaves a narrative that is raw and riveting. His writing stings at a few places reflecting Mary Agnes’ anger while at places it is soothing just like the way the villagers remember Pastor Pius Philipose.
When a woman talks about her husband in a poor light, one is quick to assume that he is a drunkard, a wife beater or worse, a foul mouthed, short-tempered person. Strangely, in Mary Agnes’s case, her husband is none of the above and yet his abuse broke her in indescribable ways. Abuse need not always be physical. This book is a testimony to that fact. Page after page, as Mary tries to reconstruct certain incidents to remember her husband, she cannot help but notice the stark differences in the two versions of reality that exists in the minds of people and her own mind. Grappling with the loss of her tormentor, coupled with the loneliness due to the absence of her only son, leaves Mary devastated. Her pain is highly relatable and pushes a reader to question their opinion about the Pastor, halfway through the novel.
Pastor Pius Philipose comes across as a classic narcissist who verbally abuses his wife, belittles her and makes her feel insignificant all the while portraying a larger than life role on the outside. He seems to glide between these two personalities effortlessly, to an extent that there are times when Mary actually questions herself for thinking like this about him. Adding to it, their dysfunctional marriage adds trauma to the life of their only son Mark who chooses to walk away from this chaos leaving behind a trail of never-ending questions. Weaving across themes of grief and abuse, Mistry’s tale makes for a poignant read. Mary’s struggle to accept the damage done to her is heart-wrenching, reminding you how emotional abuse cripples an individual for a lifetime.
The author has used the title to show us how as humans we are bound to be eternally hopeful — hopeful of a good day tomorrow, of the bad changing for good and of hurt turning into joy. The title depicts the eternal hope Mary Agnes lived with till the death of her husband, how she expected there to be a miracle, that he would change for the better. It also depicts, how her hope died a silent death every single day, till there was no more hope left within her.
Mistry gives us a glimpse of the ugly side of a marriage, which leaves the reader distressed. Through his powerful writing he shows us how domestic abuse is prevalent in different strata of society and manages to stay hidden for years. Women have been taught to hold onto their marriages with the tightest rope, making way for such abusers to get away with their deeds. This dark and disturbing read is a strong reminder of what is wrong with our society and what impact it can have on our lives.
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. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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