Book review | Invisible Ties by Nadya A. R.

Author: Nadya A. R.

Genre: Drama, Fiction, Contemporary Fiction 

No. of pages: 265

Published by: Rupa Publications 

Published on: 23rd August 2017 

Format: Paperback 

My rating: ★★★★
As Karachi burned in the 1990s, the painfully shy Noor Kamal found refuge in an antique jade mirror stolen from Daisy, her social butterfly mother. One fateful day, the violence hits home as a motley crew of burglars storm the Kamal residence, killing Joseph, the faithful driver who tried to shield Noor and kidnapping Daisy in the process.

Traumatized by the turn of events and succumbing to familial pressure, Noor reluctantly agrees to start life afresh in Singapore as the wife of Meekaal Kalim, an investment banker. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Noor finds succour in studying psychotherapy.

Her attempt to heal others brings her close to Ella, her neighbour and Jake, a handsome American who is struggling to deal with his emotional breakdown. As she tries to exorcise ghosts from the past and break free from the shackles, where will this quest take Noor? Would she be able to liberate herself from her strong cultural values and ties?

A saga of love and trials, against a rich contrasting background, Invisible Ties is sure to appeal to the readers.

The story keeps Noor as the centre and we get to view Noor's life story starting from a 3 year old Noor who steals an antique mirror from her overprotective mother to channel her feelings by talking to it, to a grown up Noor who finally finds someone to give her love to. In this process we get to see how Noor manages to grow up in a home where only jewels, class and money matter more than emotions and pain. Growing up with a mother who decides everything for Noor, Noor seeks normalcy and mediocrity in her father,  the stolen mirror and her faithful family chauffeur, Uncle Joseph. But when a group of robbers rob her house, kills Uncle Joseph and kidnaps her mother for a few hours, Noor's roots are shaken. In order to seek that normalcy again, Noor reluctantly agrees to marry an investment banker ten years older to her because her mother said so and against her father's wishes. Soon Noor realises that her husband, Meekal, married her only to make her an unpaid nurse for his ailing mother and to use her body at night. In spite of the lack of attraction towards her husband, Noor nurses her loquacious, arduous and demanding mother-in-law. 

Noor finds her solace in studying psychotherapy and meets her new friend Ella and Jake who comes to Noor for help. As Noor help them with their own load of emotional baggage, Noor deals with her own demons that haunts her repeatedly about Uncle Joseph's murder. 

The cover of the book is the first thing that appealed me. It has light pastel brown shade and a grainy texture. As you can see from above, the cover shows a beautifully and exquisitely carved hand mirror and a yellow scarf flying behind it. At first look, the cover made me believe that the book would be about family and sadness and loneliness and I was not wrong. Reading the book, readers would realise that the cover portrays an important part of the story. 

The story also traverses through a multitude of cultural settings along with Noor. From Lahore to Singapore to London, the author expertly takes her readers on a tour. The characters are colourful and unique. Though the author continually lay emphasis on Noor, it fails to show Noor's inner feelings. Sometimes I failed to comprehend how the characters felt and the book seemed purely objective. The author weaves an fervent tale about Noor but it failed to make me feel for Noor. Also, I felt that the story skipped from one moment to another. 

All in all, the book left an impression in me. It showed me the worse side of growing up with immense wealth. It showed me different cultures and their exquisite cuisines and costumes. It showed me how expats feel in a foreign land and it showed me the adversities of age old customs and differences in faith and religion. While the overall story and its backdrop impressed me, the characters failed to. 

Once you read this novel you'll surely feel that the author has a very poetic way of narration. The tasteful settings are artfully described and the dialogues are lyrical. Though most people love this kind of word exchange, it did not work well with me.

The author has portrayed Noor as a character who is obsessed with the Mughals and their love sagas. Initially it was interesting but later it became drab. For example, when Jake says "In my supplementary reading, I also learnt that you could be easily mistaken for a hybrid rose, Nur Mahal, which could be extremely difficult to find in this sultry climate", Noor goes on to describe the story behind Nur Mahal in a text book like manner. The dialogues are often devoid of emotions and I constantly kept on imagining the characters conversing in a stoic manner.

I liked the book for the message it gives and it was rich with cultural information and also how different people view their world, some remaining in their own bubble and some trying to break theirs free.

Nadya A.R. began writing in her early twenties. She is a psychotherapist and regularly contributes articles related to psychotherapy and conducts workshops, seminars and talks, in Pakistan and Singapore. This is her second novel.

I received the book in exchange of an honest and unbiased review. 


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