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The Mirror by Neerav Harsh | Book Review

In our continuous journey of connecting to authors -established and new – we keep exploring new works. Recently, we had a chance to digitally meet author Neerav Harsh and read his debut work – a novella called The Mirror. We thank Neerav Harsh for sharing a copy of this book with us for an unbiased review of the same.

Book Title : The Mirror
Author :
Publisher : Words Matter Publishing (15 October 2020)
# of Pages : 472 KB; 70(Kindle EBook)
Purchase Link(s) :

It is a relatively short, self-analytical book and I had a chance to read it on behalf of Team Thinkerviews. I found the book appealing and hence here are my thoughts and views on this book.

Cover Page:

For a reader browsing for his/her next read, the coverpage of any book is the first impression and a hint of the story and characters featured in the book. Looking at the coverpage of this book, I see a black and white doorway to this tale about introspection and self-exploration. The page features a blurry image in the white part of the coverpage showing a shaft of light and the reflection in this mirror.

The Mirror by Neerav Harsh | Book Cover

The Mirror by Neerav Harsh | Book Cover

This is a minimalistic coverage with a scope for improvement in future editions.

Storyline:

We meet the narrator as he goes through his morning routine for a typical day, getting ready and having a conversation with an image in his mirror that is neither himself nor the reflection of his self! He has been seeing this man in the mirror for a while. The man seems to know all about him including his past, but our protagonist has not shared this secret with anyone else – not even his wife Lina.

As the book progresses, we witness the protagonist’s conversations with the man in the mirror and learn about some of the past events that left deep impression on his mind, e.g., in school days, a boy called Artha asked for his help during exams and when our protagonist didn’t participate in cheating, Artha tried to commit suicide.

Events like this leave deep marks on him and as a child, when he tries to shut the world out and take refuge in his drawing skills, his mother locks him up in a room. Although his mother is concerned for the child’s own safety, this doesn’t help.

Our protagonist grows up, gets a job, falls in love and marries his dear wife Lina, has a son, and in general is doing all the accepted, right things for a young man of present times. However, what he has been feeling throughout his life about his true self, has gone down deep inside and stayed there.

Has his inner feeling finally manifested into the man in the mirror?

Views and Reviews:

For me, this book highlights something that all of us feel at some point. Especially once you have grown up and living a life divided between work and family obligations, do you stop suddenly some day, look in the mirror and wonder where the years went? The person you change into every day, without even noticing that life is passing by and you hardly ever think about things that are buried deep inside you while on the surface, everything is right in your life and you are living it along the lines of established norms of the society.

In childhood, we are all different. But through education and peer pressure, we all get ‘conditioned’ in behaving a certain way. And what cannot be achieved by external force is sometimes achieved through subtle pressure of the expectations by people who love you.

As the protagonist in this book feels how all parents want a better life for their children and they make so many sacrifices that the children in turn feel obligated to achieve their parents’ dreams. Or all their sacrifices would be for nothing. There is a paragraph in the book below which captures this journey:

The boy, filled with passion, will first fight to win over the shortcomings his childhood had. So, he will try to gather riches and luxuries. He finds his goals too small as compared to his parents’…who wanted to give the best to their kids, even if that was at the coast of their own lives. The traits that he values do not belong to a smart, pragmatic person with a mind made up to grow economically. He takes pride in his parents’ sacrifices. So, sacrifice becomes his ultimate measure of dedication.

It is the ambition that others have for you, the one you have for yourself makes you look for things that are bigger. And in these mega affairs of life, it is easy to miss the one small thing that was yours to find…That’s what happens right..

And so it is that we all trap ourselves into these realities that we create as our lives. To that end, I think the mirror is a perfect choice to portray the fusion that is the sense of identity as well as the sense of being trapped. The author slowly brings out the past events to tell us how the current dilemma of seeing the man in the mirror has eventuated from repressing countless memories that were painful for the hero. As he grows up, he does what is expected of him and also rationalizes this to himself because it is not exactly what his inner self wants:

The truth is that you tend to explain things to yourself like you do the world. Your rationalizations…they allow you to forget.

You would think that the people who are closest to you, your family, would understand such anguish. We also have learnt a lot more about mental illnesses, conditions like schizophrenia and how the repressed feelings sometimes take form of depression. But unfortunately, while children still hear their innermost selves, the parents are adults who already deal with the harsh realities of life and their own entrapment. Here, the hero’s mother locks him into a room as a child, but it is not out of cruelty, but concern:

When you draw, you always go into this different world. You do not eat because you think you have already had a meal with that boy. You do not talk to us even when we are trying to tell you something. Someday, you may have a family who would depend on you. When you walk back home every day, they would be worried. I don’t know if you would notice the vehicles while crossing the road.

This section of the book also reminded me of how children make up imaginary friends when they are young. Literary fiction is filled with such examples and maybe that is the best way for young children to express their inner selves, passion and desires.

The author uses simple language and I like some of the statements that talk about our daily lives:

Evenings are tough. You have time. You sit down for dinner together. You make conversations. You try to understand what is worrying the other, hear them out, pacify them.

The morning was not convincing. It was as if the sun had decided to skip work today.

The book is a journey of a character who has been following a path that has left him yearning for his inner passions, but there are still moments in his life filled with happiness and joy. And he does hold them dear:

Like the time you see a butterfly on a flower. You know you cannot save the beautiful sight forever. So, you stand there soaking it all up, like an experience you don’t know if you are ever going to feel this ever again. Like taking in as much oxygen as possible before taking a dip in the water. Like being so engrossed in the beauty of the world that your lungs forget breathing. Your heart forgets beating. You forget to even struggle to stay afloat. In that moment when everything becomes slow and still, right before the end.

The book is generally well-written. There are occasional typographical errors, e.g., on page 50:
“This is creepy, you know, that right?”
This should be printed as
“This is creepy, you know that, right?”

I enjoyed reading this book for its focus on self and the journey of growing up. Let me share a few more quotes I liked:

I am visible only to you, but I am not you. You can’t ‘shush’ me as you need. I will be there reminding you who you are.

I am here to help; I am here to help. Why do you want to choose everyone else who has chosen to lock you away? And why? Just because you do not completely fit the ‘you’ they have define in their head. The ‘You which suits their convenience, the ‘You’ they say they love.

I think the book will give a lot of readers something to think about – where their own passions lie and whether they can change their lives to give freedom to their inner selves or will they lose this fight and succumb to the darkness:

The truth didn’t matter. Nor did the reality of the either of the worlds – the one I see in the mirror, the other that was once beyond this door. Only did the dark hollowness inside. I would have been lost in that dark world inside of me. So, I looked inside. May be that was the only way out. As I hid deep inside, that voice also became weaker.

Summary:

If you have a couple of hours and are looking for a novella on themes of self-exploration and addressing questions on identity, then give this book a try…

ThinkerViews Rating:

7 out of 10.

Quick Purchase Links:

Over To You:

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