I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.
I read and reviewed a collection of short stories by Indrajit Garai around a year ago and really enjoyed the collection holistically. The theme of sacrifice ran through each story and poses the reader with the question: what would you sacrifice? Indrajit Garai comes back with his second collection of short stories called The Eye Opener. The themes are a little more muddled compared to the bold title of The Sacrifice, but each story is written with a specific intention about people overcoming huge challenges. One of the main differences I noticed about the two collections is the scope of time involved in the stories. In The Sacrifice, the stories were told over short periods of time. In The Eye Opener, time flows much more freely and the stories span years and decades. While Garai’s writing style is distinct and it is evident these two collections are from the same style, I found that the collections read differently.
As a content waring, the stories in this collection deal with domestic violence, suicide ideation, miscarriage, homelessness, and death.
The Alignment starts with a couple expecting a child. Franck is a part of a firm and to ‘keep up’ with his colleagues, he and his wife Armelle have moved into a nicer place. This is all a part of a plan to go toe to toe with colleagues and hopefully get a promotion. Franck is put on a project overseas in the United States right in the middle of the pregnancy. This is a make or break moment for him – if it goes smoothly, he is sure to get the promotion. Everything is going fine until Franck is in the US and Armelle is having issues with the pregnancy. The plan did not go as planned and their lives get radically shaken up. Time passes very fluidly and very fast as each Franck struggles with the why of what happened.
The Changing Turf follows an international student Nathan who travels to the United States to study. While walking around one night very late, he becomes lost and stumbles on a bridge. He sees a women named Kelly on the bridge and deduces that she is thinking about jumping off. He uses his situation of being lost to ask if the women could direct him back to his residential hall and then calls to get her help. This moment sets off a chain of events that drastically changes Nathan life, ultimately bringing him full circle back to the bridge with the same woman, Kelly. A lot happens in this story and a lot of time passes from Nathan’s initial arrival and the end of the story. For me, the story tried to take on too many topics – it seemed like Nathan was a magnet for them – domestic violence, homelessness, suicide ideation. What I did find powerful in the story was Nathan’s initial expectations of coming to the United States and his assimilation over the years.
The Eye Opener is the final story in the collection and one of the most intriguing stories of the collection. This story follows Cedric (in first person). His brother has been killed and he has been framed for drug possession. Between trying to maintain a semblance of a relationship with his mother and dealing with his brother’s old friends, Cedric is trying to put his life and back together. He connects with a city official, Vincent who helps him out along the way an ultimately supports Cedric as he is pursuing new jobs. Similar the The Changing Turf, there are a lot of character interactions and topics that are brought up a explored: drugs, prison system, coping with death, family relationships, socioeconomic status. While there is a lot going on, I liked this one better than The Changing Turf because of the first person perspective – it felt real and raw.
Final Rating: 3.6/5