Book Review: Museum of Memories by Amrita Mukherjee

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“ I wish my confounded breasts could have produced some milk. I had squeezed my breasts so hard last night that I am still in pain. But not a drop came out. My contract said I could keep her for a month with me if I had milk. I didn’t; she is gone.”
—- Diary of a Surrogate Mother.

When a book is endorsed by lofty names like M.J Akbar and Vir Sanghvi, it is bound to raise the expectations and hopes of the readers. I am no exception, and so it didn’t take much time for me to grab ‘Museum of Memories’ by author Amrita Mukherjee, which is published by Readomania. Packed with thirteen extremely relatable stories, this collection takes its readers through various walks of life that we all must have converged at some point or the other. The author through these tales displays an uncanny ability to see a lot in the commonness of people around us. And, that perhaps is the sole ingredient which makes these stories loveable and pertinent to the lives and incidents depicted at large.

Synopsis: All the stories in Museum of Memories are from different genres. Yet if there is one thing that is common in these tales, it is the presentation of tangible human emotions in various social arrangements. In ‘Museum of Memories’ (first story) the author blends her angst and pain for her sister who has committed suicide, only to be completely taken aback when she learns a devastating truth. In ‘Diary of a Surrogate Mother’ the author toys with the psychological mind frame of a young surrogate mother. ‘Love at First Sight’ is an interesting story of a boy falling in love with a lady thrice his age in the most unassuming manner. ‘Going Home’ is a heart wrenching story of a sex worker who wishes to return home with her son. In ‘Metro Ride’ the author brings about the vulnerabilities of teenage love and how things changed after marriage. ‘Trapped and Saved’ are two stories of how ignorantly we are trapped and saved at various junctures of life. In ‘Good to Worse’ the author takes you through the life of girl who hated her bounden life at her parents’ home, only to discover the noxious world once she stepped out of home after marriage. ‘The Boy who wanted to be a Doctor’ is a heartwarming tale of a young boy from village who wished to become a doctor. With ‘Perfect Life’ the author talks about the life in and around the edited world of social media. ‘It Happened One Day’ takes us through the wretched lives of the tea estate workers. ‘The House Husband’ revolves around a young bride and how she finds a way to deal with an annoying mother in law. ‘The Rising’ takes us through the aftermath of a Hindu Muslim marriage in the most unexpected way. And lastly, ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ is a gladdening love story of an army officer and his unexpected bride.

Narration and Language: The author chose a very simple and lucid narrative style for all the stories. It is easy to understand and can be finished in one go. She has detailed her prose with minimalist ornamentation. And, the occasional dollops of suspense fits in well, making the tales an intriguing read. For eg. In the first story ‘Museum of Memories, the ending was a surprising turn of events that one would not possibly think off. Similarly, in ‘Going Home’ what was swinging towards a happy ending, suddenly turned out to be the worst nightmare for a mother. And, the blend of suspense and emotion in ‘Love at First Sight’ made it an absorbing piece of prose.
Language of this collection is not extraordinarily brilliant. But, it is just as much required to make these tales to float effortlessly. An uncomplicated and fluent display here.

Editing: In many ways, Museum of Memories rests on its crisp editing. To the point and measured, the editing does lend a formidable readability to this collection, which could have faltered otherwise considering the contour of the plots the author was dabbling with.

What could have been better?
I feel that the author could have stayed with the characters and toyed with their lopsided emotional habitat a little more. Also, at times, as a reader, before I could savour a character or a scene, it changed with new people and drama too soon. For example, just when I was coming to terms with Sadique’s death in ‘The Rising’, there was change in scene. I would have preferred if the author had held that space for the reader to gulp that moment copiously, which was loaded with enough emotions to choke you for few moments. Some stories, I felt, were rushed at the end.

With only 189 pages and thirteen beautifully crafted tales, ‘Museum of Memories’ is an easy afternoon read. Grab it and relish your own memories around it.

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