Exploring new writers and new perspectives is a never-ending treat for readers. Recently, we came across a debut book published in 2021 by author Kirthana Ramisetti and found its blurb intriguing enough to pick it up for reading. We enjoyed the story and so here are our thoughts on it for Team Thinkerviews.
|Book Title||:||Dava Shastri's Last Day|
|Published by||:||Grand Central Publishing|
|# of Pages||:||367 (Hardcover)|
|# of Chapters||:||23|
Let us take a look at the cover pages of this book.
As you can see, the book has different cover pages representing different version. A well-groomed lady with dark goggles is seen on both of them. Representing the female protagonist. Both the versions has illustrations that look impressive from some perspectives.
Moderately good cover pages I can say.
Dava Shastri at seventy is a successful, self-made wealthy and a renowned philanthropist. She has gathered her whole family around for the Christmas and everyone is shocked one morning to read the news of her death. She is still alive and amongst them, so why the news? As her four children Arvie, Sita, Kali and Rev grapple with Dava’s revelation about her illness and her plans to end her life voluntarily, we see Dava’s life journey.
Daughter of immigrant parents, Dava found her place in the world of music at early age as a listener and later founded a company called Medici artists. When she sold that company, she became a millionaire overnight. And then another canny investment made her a billionaire. With this money came the complications of being wealthy. Dava’s next ambition then has been to make the name Shastri synonymous with philanthropy. Her foundation has helped out numerous artists and communities in need and surely, she will be lauded upon her death?
But, Dava also had a personal life and unfortunately, it is this area that the news focuses on. She was in a dysfunctional relationship during her early college days, and had a daughter, which she gave up for adoption – Chaitanya. Later in life, Dava connected with Chaitanya, but never told her that she was her birth mother. But the secret is out now and her other children are bewildered and confused.
While Dava had a solid, loving marriage with Arvid Persson, she also at one time had affair with musician Tom Buck, who wrote an Oscar winning song called Dava. There has always been rumours about how the song came into being, but now this alleged affair is taking over all the coverage of her death.
So instead of applause, Dava sees criticism and censure – both from the world and her family? What can she do now?
Views and Reviews:
When I picked up this book for reading, I expected an entertaining, futuristic tale of a matriarch and the book is that to a large extent. But it also has pocketful of musical experiences, shared joys of favorite bands that you could not get out of your head or your ears at a particular age or a particular place in your life. For Example, Dava remembers all the instrumental moments of her life with reference to a musical background. The night she found her life partner, or how she found the music she loved, or picking up her son’s name. Even the last day of her life is lived with the Motown in background as her family says goodbye.
Dava’s is the central character and the book is largely built around her persona – charismatic, determined and flawed, no wonder she wants to know how she would be remembered:
She was a different breed of philanthropist. She had lived a life of service, yes, but she had also lived a life.
The kind t hat earned words like “visionary” and “icon” from those who knew her and those who wished they had. But did that mean she would be lauded?
And the theme of her life has been philanthropy, to make the name Shastri synonymous with help:
To me, it is a responsibility and a promise. A responsibility to leave this world better than I left it, and a promise that generations of Shastris will always be taken care of, so they can focus on helping others who are less fortunate.
But people with big ambitions also sometimes experience big lows. And this comes through again and again through Dava’s interaction with her family. Her loving husband passed away after an illness, but all her children – Arvie, Sita, Kali, and Rev have grown up in the shadows of her gigantic persona and between them, they love, adore, respect and hate her for their own reasons:
Its about wanting all the perks of being wealthy and privileged without doing any of the work. That you actually recognize you have little inclination to help others, and that makes you ashamed if yourself, so you take out your self-loathing on others.
As this book is set in future, the author gives us a scenario where patients with terminal illness can opt for ending their lives. In some ways, Dava sees it as an opportunity to leave the life on her own terms, just as she has lived it on her own terms:
Death by illness was almost a blessing. She had been given the gift of knowing their days together were numbered, rather than having him violently yanked out of their lives, as had happened with her parents and his.
As Dava’s last day is marred by shadows of the controversies of illegitimate child and affair with a famous musician, it is bound to bring up a lot of conversations about marriage and long-term commitments:
We all pretty much marry the wrong person because we are inherently flawed people, and somehow we don’t expect our partners to notice and call us on it.
Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t yet know who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.
So there are a lot of bits in the book that make the narrative enjoyable. But as the book is set in future, I guess a bit more futuristic setting – in terms of technological advances and personal devices would have been more appealing. The narrative also could have been a bit more paced. We start the book with the couple of surprises in Dava’s eulogy, but then we pretty much keep circling back to it. Although the background narrative and characters are enjoyable, a bit more pace in the events of last couple of days of Dava’s life would have made the book a better read.
An entertaining, inspiring tale of a woman who makes her fortune early in life and then creates a legacy of helping others…
Around 7 stars out of 10.
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Over To You:
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