My initial description of this would be ‘well, it’s a bit of a quirky one’. The characters are all a little bit off the wall. But then I got to thinking … aren’t we all, in our own way?
Drew Davies has created a cast of characters who are all a little bit broken, and who need to find their way back to being whole again. That’s not to say that the cracks aren’t going to show, or that they’re not going to need fixing up sometime in the future, and they might not even be the same ‘whole’ as they were before the incident that brought them together in the first place. But they’ll be put back together somehow, and that’s going to work just fine.
Mr and Mrs Dixit live a quiet, insular life. They don’t need anyone else (certainly not children) – they have each other. In fact they’re so very used to having each other and spending all of their time together (when Mr Dixit is not at work) that they don’t even talk to each other much! Did I mention, they lead an extremely quiet life. They avoid their upstairs neighbour, Mrs Rampersad, to the extent that they don’t even turn their television up too loud at night as they don’t want her to hear it and possibly complain about the noise. They’re quite fine without anyone encroaching into their lives. That’s not to say that they don’t have a lot to say about everyone else. Oh no, they do in fact tend to pass judgement on just about everyone else who they come across! Nobody seems to meet their high expectations of how people should live their lives and carry out their day to day actions with those around them.
And then Mr Dixit (his name’s Naveem) is involved in a serious accident in his taxi and lands up in a coma. Mrs Dixit (her name’s Wendy) is thrown into turmoil. Her carefully curated life pulled from under her in one swift move! Where to go, who to turn to, who to tell, what to do??? Naveem’s disapproving family react shockingly! Well, they didn’t approve of their union in the first place. What was he thinking, marrying a white woman, ten years his senior!? Suddenly Mrs Rampersad upstairs becomes Wendy’s most unlikely ally, taking over in a way that neither Wendy nor I as the reader could have foreseen! And then there’s Wendy’s critical sister and her young son Henry, who becomes a surprising key figure in Wendy’s suddenly topsy-turvy life.
Davies navigates his readers through exceptionally rocky territory here. Complex relationships, internal turmoil and multifaceted characters who often have a complete lack of ability to express themselves in even the slightest conventional manner! But he does it all in a sincere and forthright way, so that it’s obvious that what we might perceive as being silly or ridiculous, are obviously hugely challenging experiences to those who are facing them.
I didn’t find this an easy read. The characters are not likeable and didn’t do enough to redeem themselves for me. Their eccentricities were just that bit too much for me to feel that sense of fondness that one tends to feel for unusual quirky individuals.
But I think it’s the concepts and themes, rather than the actions of the characters throughout, that I found quite absorbing: that someone so close to you, is also someone who is beloved by others, and that what they think is right is completely opposed to your views; when you’re thrown into an unexpected situation, you discover that you might not be the person you thought you were and that others assumed you were … what will happen when those others realise this?
It’s very much a slow burner of a book, and I’d rate it 4 stars. There’s the complex character exploration and then, on a totally different tangent, a cat burgler at large!
Thank you to Bookouture for inviting me on this most interesting tour. Take a look at what other book bloggers are saying about With or Without You …