Book Review: Exiled to Freedom
Updated: Apr 26
Title: Exiled to Freedom
Author: S.G.D Sing
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CAUTION: This story is not for the weak stomach or the feint of heart.
To be honest, when I signed up to do this blog tour and agreed to do a review, I wasn't sure this book would be for me. I read the blurb and thought, "Well, that's not really my style but..." and when I received my copy of the book, I dove right in. These are my findings.
What's it' about?
Seventeen year old Priya makes her way from New York, where she lives a life of superficial excess, where money and appearance is everything, to India where her family is celebrating her cousin's marriage. The problem is, Priya doesn't buy into the idea that money and social station are the most important things in the world. But when her mother travels with Priya and her mother to Punjab to visit with Priya's great grandmother Biji and abandons Priya on the stinky, isolated, low tech farm, she finds herself with no other choice but to re-event her daily schedule and form relationships with Biji and the two people closest to her, Rohit and his mother Namrita.
After a health scare and further inspired by Rohit's constant frustration with her wealth and, extravagant life style in New York and lack of understanding of her Indian heritage, Priya asks Biji to share her life story, completely unaware of how powerful and life changing that story would prove to be.
Over a series of of nights, Biji shares the story of her families horrific experiences and ultimate survival of the Partition of India and Pakistan to an ever growing audience, resulting in new found adventures in Biji's present life with Rohit and Priya and a band of uniquely talented friends as they strive to find the perfect ending to Biji's war stories only to realize that the biggest gain through it all was Priya's journey to discovering who she was, what was important to her and find a glimpse or two of the bright future ahead. Her destiny may not look the way her mother had always dreamed, but it may just be more then Priya ever dreamed of living.
What I thought...
The roller coaster ride and emotional journey I experienced can not be put into words but, as this is a blog and, by definition a collection of words, I will try.
My first impressions of Priya were not great. I viewed her as a spoiled rich girl, slightly out of touch with the way the world works and living a life dictated by her constant residence in her over populated pity party thrown, catered and planned by none other then...herself.
Yet, it wasn't long before I happily realized that her attitude, disdain for her family and their life style and, yes, even her seemingly entitled pity party were not all unjustified. I began to see that the biggest offender was not her, but her mother, leaving not at all surprised and slightly thankful when she leaves Priya with her Biji.
Despite the emotional carousal at the beginning of the book, I found the first hundred or so pages slow and, while necessary, not quite enthralling tale I had hoped for. That, however was made up for as Biji shared her story. Biji's story was a hellish nightmare, to say the least. I found myself getting through the majority of her war tale with my hand covering my mouth, tears blurring my vision (and making it hard to read) and my stomach churning and Biji relives a time of gruesome murder, utter hate and bloody, violent deaths. I wanted so badly to walk away and never return becoming more and more anxious with each turn of my digital page (I read a digital copy) of what inhuman, heinous, bloody scene would unfold next and, yet, like a train wreck, I was glued to my seat. I had to know that everyone was okay. I had to know that they made it through and found happiness again. I went from "yea, I can read a chapter or two," to unable to put it down! I marveled at Biji and her family's strength and perseverance and I grew more and more proud of Priya for all of the riches and growth she discovered through hearing her grandmother's story. I went to bed with thoughts of the two women and woke up still in a whirl wind of thoughts and hopes for this family I had just meant.
And then Biji's war story came to a close, bringing her and her audience back to the present day, where they would spend the next 100 pages embarking on much happier adventures filled with gratitude and love. I found myself disappointed and wanting more. While about 300 pages is a descend sized book, I felt almost as if the last 100 pages were rushed. I was now invested. I had fallen in love with these people and I admired their strength, their ability to find the good even when the world rained very little but acidic hatred. I wanted to hear all of the stories about Biji's life since the war. I wanted to experience those comfortable, silly, bonding moments between Biji and Priya in a greater depth. I wanted to experience those last few miles of personal growth, not just see it or be told that it happened. So, when the book was over, I wanted more! I wanted to go with them onto the next chapters of their lives. I wanted to see them embrace all they had gained and make a difference in their lives...and then the world.
So, while it's almost impossible not to be disturbed by the holocaust like events of the Partition of India, I actually really loved this book. It touched every emotion. Ms. Singh did an amazing job of balancing the dark, scary, intense world of war and bloody death with a more lighthearted, fun and bright, or at least, significantly less intense and disturbing world of Biji and Priya today. She drug me into the depth of horror and all of the emotions that come with it, and then, right before it was too much, right before I was lost and unable to emerge from the dark, heavy head space, she would send a life line that reminded me that everything was okay, and I don't need to live in such a dark place. Ms. Singh wove a story of incredible strength and determination, and reminded me the power and the destructive abilities that hate exudes when we allow it. Not only am I glad that I read this, I was truly moved by the story. It has resonated with me in a way I never expected.
What do I rank it?
I rate this book a.....
4.5 out of 5 keys
But those are just my thoughts! What did you think of the book? Let us know in the comments!