Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Village by Nikita Lalwani

"We are all unreliable narrators of our own lives." --Amy Grace Lloyd

I love the above quote because one of the things that fascinates me about life is the way our memories work and the narratives we choose to tell ourselves about our lives. (by the way this is something I forgot to mention in my review A Place at the Table that I loved was when one of the characters realizes this--that's she's been relentlessly cheerful and upbeat about a really awful situation in her life and then the way she feels about it was she a fool to lie to herself for so long, etc. really resonated) And it's true...we only remember certain things and sometimes we remember them differently and we piece together what we want to tell the story that we want..usually putting the best possible spin on ourselves and our actions. :) But of course I also think it's a really necessary thing for personal interactions, it allows us to be more generous with others than we might be if we chose to really see the truth about everything. That layer of artifice excuses us and almost gives us a break from always having to think of how selfish and weak humans really are, we can just accept the excuse of the moment.

Anyway! The Village is very much a book about the stories we tell. The stories we tell to ourselves about ourselves, the stories we tell others, and the stories we manufacture. Ray and her crew are in India at this very intriguing prison village where they are shooting a documentary. It's a big gig for her and she's excited to do it. But the longer she's there, the less she finds that stories present themselves naturally and she lands in conflict with her teammates on producing content for their film.

So the big plot of the book is how are they going to get their story?..which is interesting enough from the standpoint of the news. After all, they're going to this place to tell the world about it but there's not a ton of accountability as to accuracy so maybe they can stir up some drama while they're there. But Ray doesn't want to do that...she craves authenticity as is best captured by the moments she longs to film people when they don't know the camera is on them...she wants to capture things as they are and not the front that people put on for others. And yet the place doesn't necessarily offer a gripping story on its own.

But what is kind of amazing to me is that as the book continues we realize even Ray is not who she says she is. She has a created image she puts out and then a true self underneath--which is demonstrated most obviously when we realize something she does in secret. And this idea...of the self we create for others versus out true selves...or the story we tell the world vs. the story that we're actually living is a theme in the book.

It kind of has an odd ending, but the writing is lovely, the themes explored are interesting and universal, and the setting is definitely unique. Recommended.

I received a review copy from Random House!


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