Saturday, June 11, 2011


Not having read her debut novel, I had no expectations whatsoever from Preeti Shenoy's "Life is what you make it".So when I took it up, my mind had been a completely blank slate with no pre-conceived ideas about her writing style.

The book begins on a melancholy note where our protagonist, the 21 year-old Ankita, is seen as a helpless patient at the doors of one of the nation's top mental health institutes. It is here that Ankita, the narrator, begins recounting the incidents that had brought her to such a pitiable condition at present.

The timeline of the book is set in the 90s and hence we find ourselves in the age of no cell-phones or internet or CDs. We see Ankita, a promising young lady of 18 and a student of St Agnes, sneaking into her parents' room in their absence just for a 5-minute conversation over the telephone with her long-distance beau Vaibhav. She is shown to be a normal college-goer, bright, enthusiastic and the Arts Club Secretary, in charge of co-ordinating and organizing cultural events. It is during one such inter-college cultural festival, she meets up with Abhishek, who instantly falls for her charms and begins to woo her. Initially a reluctant Ankita stalls because of Vaibhav, but at the same time she can't help herself from liking the good-natured Abhi. As she begins a relationship with him, Vaibhav's presence takes a backseat in her life.
Time passes by and at the fag end of her graduation, Ankita makes it to a prestigious B-school in Mumbai, having done well in her MBA entrance exams, but Abhi does not. He insists that they study together at a not-so-reputed institute in Cochin instead but Ankita remains adamant on going to Mumbai. She breaks up with Abhi one morning, drunk on her aspirations of success, only to wake up a day later to the news of his death in an accident.
A guilt-ridden Ankita, blames herself for not having dealt with her lover with more sensitivity but leaves for Mumbai  nonetheless.
A new city instills in her a desire to start afresh as she gets a new high from studying late nights and engaging herself in her coursework completely. But in between the most productive periods, she exhibits reckless behavior, by kissing a class-mate in a cab or dancing on the parapet in a bout of frenzied madness.

Things go rapidly spiraling out of control from this point onwards as Ankita slowly gives into her inner turmoil, and her self-destructive urges surface. Her distraught parents drag her from one psychiatrist's clinic to another but with little or zero results finally ending up at the mental health institution . It turns that Ankita suffers from bipolar disorder, a mental condition where a person goes through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The rest of the book deals with how Ankita is cured of her malady and how she rediscovers what life is all about.

The basic premise of LIWYMI lies in the age-old optimistic philosophy that life goes on. Even when you are down in the dumps, with no hopes whatsoever of recovering what you lost, you still can and possibly acquire even more.
And this is illustrated in the most realistic way possible in the book.

The book has a relatively smooth narrative but then again it takes too much time to arrive at the point. Strangely enough I was unable to feel much empathy for Ankita when she was distressed. She appeared to be downright selfish throughout.

What I disliked the most was her inept handling of her love life. She gets into a new relationship while Vaibhav is clearly left in the dark. She doesn't even make much of an attempt to inform her new lover of Vaibhav's presence either. This is nothing but a mild form of two-timing. 
It's also difficult to say whether she was genuinely in love with Abhi as it seems she got into the relationship, finally giving in to his persistence.
The part dealing with Ankita's recovery appears to be rushed and the difficulties that she goes through do not seem to evoke much of an emotional response, atleast not in my opinion. We get to know very less of the kind Dr Madhusudan, who plays a pivotal role in helping Ankita get over her fears. I wish the author had spent a little more time in fleshing out his character. 
Although full marks to her for pointing out that an MBA isn't equivalent to salvation in life. And that you can strive for excellence in a field you're more comfortable with.
All in all I give it 3 out of 5 stars. As I liked it. 
And to conclude it wasn't a bad read at all.
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!



Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Hmm, I haven't read the author. But I find the review quite interesting. While even a protagonist has to have some deficiencies, it is a must to highlight each and every important aspect of the story like you said, the character of the doctor.

And yes, MBA isn't the end of the road, nor is the highest pinnacle of success. It is just a beginning, like many others.

Interesting read.

Blasphemous Aesthete

Prathi said...

nice read thanks for the update :)

☆ ayu☆ said...

the plot seems interesting..i wanna read it though i doubt i can find that book in our country

Prateek said...

Apparently, the title of the book is a song by Miley Cyrus. Review seems to be interesting and losing one character often happens whenever there is a double timing.
Book seems to be nice as per the review.

Samadrita said...

@BA: Yeah real people are never perfect, always flawed to an extent.

@Prathi: :)

@ayu: I doubt it too. Oh well I already gave you the summary no? :P

@Prateek: Book is nice. :)

Nethra said...

Nice review. I would have read the book if blogadda had mailed it to me too. I might still read it but not anytime soon.

Anish said...

Sounds really interesting.And a very good review-to summarize a book in a few paragraphs is not an easy task at all.

Perception said...

Seems like a good story but then again so many books to read, so little time:)

Santanu said...

nice review.judging by your review the book itself depicts bipolar nature..highs and lows...

the thinking cupcake said...

hmmm...the book doesn't sound tht great.

i liked the review---stressing on the pitfalls as well, and not just sugar coating it :)

Haddock said...

That cover looks so lively and colourful.

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