Book Review: Turtle Dove by Divya Dubey

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She clothed herself, allowing him one long last minute to savor her nakedness…….She half turned from the door, her hand holding the knob. The torment surfaced in her eyes. ‘ The wedding’s on Monday…at eight. Don’t forget.’

He nodded.

Goodbye, Daddy,’ she said, clicking the door shut behind her.

Welcome to Turtle Dove, a collection of short stories by Divya Dubey, that will take you through those uneven terrains of human psyche, that stays tenant-less in general. Packed with six stories in one hundred and sixty pages, this collection is an assimilation of conjunctures that will leave you bewildered and confused in more ways than one. While the author claims these to be a set of bizarre tales, let’s dwell a little deeper and try to comb if the tales actually lives up the to claim or we are left feeling bizarre at the end !

Synopsis: Turtle Dove houses six short stories, all from different genres, lending an interesting contour to the read. Each story is a fresh piece that coaxes you to sit and ponder over the nuanced human psyche with astonishment and intrigue. Author Divya Dubey has toyed with emotions and vulnerabilities with aplomb. In ‘The Science Wizard’ she blends rage and sympathy when a brilliant Uday Joshi turns into a rapist and murderer. In ‘Arnab’ the author deals with a boy’s agonizing struggle with his own sexuality. In ‘Naani’ she leaves you baffled and aghast at the dynamics of Mala’s relationships with her own grandmother. In ‘The Temptation’ an unusual relationship is weaved where a mother finds a lover in her son’s friend and ends up finding a disturbing truth. In ‘Best Friends she brings about how once best friends turned awkward strangers with time; and finally with ‘Turtle Dove’, she leaves you stun, shaken and flabbergasted with an audacious plot of unfathomable sexual relationships within a family.

Character: The characters of this collection are unusual and rare, and so, they are only occasionally relatable. And this works just fine. Most of the protagonists you meet here are unlikely to fit in your canvas of ‘person in our lives’. They are different – at times outrageous, then cautiously mellowed, sometimes overtly cynical, and occasional sex maniacs; thus clashing more often with our idea of ‘ being normal’. But the way these characters were developed and panned out in the stories, is what makes them convincing. The only point what lacked here is the fact that the characters become predictable and so is the plot. In ‘Arnab’ she writes, “ Arnab grew up to be dreamy and withdrawn. He didn’t do any of the things boys of his age usually do, the things my friends and I did.” After seven pages, comes this and you almost know where it is heading towards.

Narration: I don’t quite know if the narration is impressive, but it is definitely interesting. You hear different sounds with unique narrative all through the six stories. For example, in ‘The Science Wizard’ I find a lot of theatrics in the narration. It is as if the author is staging a show and throwing herself to the gallery. In total contradiction, ‘Best Friends’ is a mellowed and soft narration with occasional outburst and cynicism that blends well with the plot. While in ‘Arnab’ there is an inherent pathos and despair in the voice. It may work for you and may not. However, what dents the narration quite a bit is the ending of the stories. While it starts well, and proceeds with conviction, the end leaves you totally disgruntled. It is abrupt and least convincing. Understandably, a lot is left for the readers to comprehend, but there is definitely room for making it more convincingly bizarre. I can still consider ‘The Temptation’ and ‘Turtle Dove’ but not the rest four. I wish Ms.Dubey challenged herself a little more in this space.

Language: There is nothing extraordinary as far as language is concerned. At places she displays her dexterity with amazing images. But again, there are few where she just manages to pass through. On the whole it works just fine because it blends well with the people and plot she is dabbling with.

Editing: Short stories seldom work without tight and crisp editing. In few words and pages a whole gamut of emotion needs to be told. Here, the edits of this collection is good enough to make it sail through seamlessly. But what irked me is the change in scenes. It is sudden and abrupt. I understand that it could be a tactic by the author to include an element of surprise at places. But if that ends up in going back and forth as a reader, then the whole purpose falls flat. Starting with a ‘bold’ alphabet or double spacing in between, would have salvaged this aspect. Could have been a notch better.

Turtle Dove (Title/story): Author Divya Dubey couldn’t have chosen a better title for this collection, as she too is aware of the fact that the last story ‘Turtle Dove’ is the most bizarre amongst the six in display. The audacious story ‘Turtle Dove’ is about a dysfunctional family where the parents and kids end up in sexual affairs with each other. I felt nauseated ! But I felt intrigued too ! I would not say this is the best story I ever read. But it is definitely the most ungoverned one I came across. Ms. Dubey crafts this piece with impeccable finesse. While reading you jerk, go back to the lines to confirm the unfathomable you just read, absorb the content, allow it to seep in, sit back, look out of the window in abandon and finally conclude your reading in disbelief with an OMG moment. She leaves you rattled, baffled and bewildered to the core. Here, I would also like to mention how Ms. Dubey dishes out sex. She writes, “ … she was generous with giving. He always held back, he could not say why. Their bodies sashayed rhythmically, step by step- tongue to tongue, bosom to bosom, spirit to spirit, caressing, now warm, now wild; now vulnerable, now aggressive. Slowly, steadily they dissolved into sound and fury.”

The author makes no mistake in producing pulsating and mouth watering sex, careful enough not to make it sleazy porn. She does that with effortless conviction, which makes this story an amazing read. It would not be wrong to say that this particular story salvaged this otherwise average book with just one bizarre stroke. Hugely commendable.

I would not categorize ‘Turtle Dove’ in the ‘Must Read’ category. But, this book deserves a chance for the unusual portrayal of characters. Because, not always do we find a mother sexual union with a son’s friend. Not always do we find a nerd becoming a rapist and not always we see sexual relationship between parents and children. Do we ?

Concluding with a beautiful line from the story ‘Turtle Dove’:

“….. It is a splintering silence- a silence more clamorous than words, more killing than a blade, more violent than rioting mobs- a heart wrenching, soul-raping silence.”

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