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Book Review: Keya Das's Second Act

Spec Spot

What's it about?

The Das family has been through alot in the last few years. First, they lose Keya after a shocking announcement, which they didn't respond well to, without ever getting to apologize. Then the family fell apart with Shantanu Das and Chaitali divorced and Chaitali moved on with another man. Now Mitali is struggling with her own feelings of loss over her sister and anger with her parents. How are they supposed to go on without Kaya?

But Shantanu can't move on. He can't stop thinking about that moment when she shared that she was gay and how horrible they all responded. Shantanu wanted her to get help and Chaitali was worried about what their Bengali community would think. Mitali was angry, after all hadn't her and Kaya been close? Why hadn't she talked to Mitali about this before? And, even though they realized that their reactions were all wrong and grounded in shock and confession rather then their actual feelings, they never got to tell Kaya, and it's almost too much to bear for the three left behind.

But then Shantanu finds some of Kaya's things while cleaning out the attic, things that she appeared to have hidden, personal things. Unsure what to do, he shares them with Chaitali and Mitali in hopes of finding closure and understanding. But what he gets is a family brought back together in a new way and an opportunity to show love to their daughter and get closure in a way that no one would have ever dreamed.


Favorite Character: I think most of them had their moments but I think my favorite was Mitali. She was raw and honest, maybe more so then the others. She was the first to say that they handled the news of Keya all wrong and it wasn't okay. She also acted with less judgment in her sister, but hurt. She was more upset that she had thought her and her sister were so close, but then why couldn't her sister show her who she really was? Why didn't she confide in Mitali? She didn't care about her sister's sexuality but felt like the lack of discussion surrounding this said a lot about her relationship with her sister and she didn't like what she thought it said. I can understand that.

However, I also really liked Kalpana, Shantanu's mother. She was the most open minded and accepting one in the bunch, even though many would have expected her to be more rigid and closed minded due to her age and her deep roots in the Bengali community.

Least Favorite Character: There weren't many characters that I disliked, though I didn't exactly love Catherine, I think I disliked Jahar the most. I can't quite put my finger on it, and maybe it just had more to do with the fact that he seemed to be the smallest and weakest written character, but I never quite trusted him. There was just something about him that I couldn't get past, even when I wanted to.

Favorite Part: The end, because there was this poetic beauty about it. It was when I went from "eh" to "yeah", when it all clicked and I stopped asking "why am I reading this? What's the point" and got to "now I know." Let me be clear, the story isn't bad, it's slow and slow burning, it's emotional and the growth of the characters are settle and slow in so man ways, that you almost don't notice them until you get to the end and look back, at which point they seem huge.

Least Favorite Part: When Keya told her family that she was gay because I hated their responses and what they implied. It came off as cold, selfish and cruel and, while it becomes more and more clear that that wasn't how they really felt and that they loved Keya for who she was and had every intention of finding away to bridge the relationship and figure out how to adjust their expectations, it was almost painful to read.

Other Thoughts:

I was not ready for this at all! I didn't expect it to hit me as hard as it did at the end. This was a mixed bag for me, becuase I found myself frustrated with a few things and not being as invested into the store as I'd have liked, but the ending brought it all together for me in a beautiful way so I can't say I didn't like it. I obviously disliked the scene where Keya tells her family about her sexuality and how the family responds. I was so angry with Shantanu for implying she needed help like her being gay was wrong and something that needed to be cured. I hated that Chaitali seemed to put appearances before her child. I understood Mitali's emotions but thought she handed them inappropriately (they could have had a discussion about it later, but at that moment, it was about Keya and her need to know she was still loved and accepted by those most important to her).

I also disliked the way everyone seemed to kind of assume that Kalpana wouldn't understand or be accepting...or maybe that was my own judgement being projected onto the characters, in which case I hate that about me. In many ways, she was the wise glue that kept the relationships within the family from completely breaking when things were tough. She rarely seemed to judge and often let her big heart shine. But I think because she's older and so ingrained in the culture, and because Chaitali made it clear that homosexuality would not be accepted in that community, it was easy to just assume that Kalpana would feel the same way.

I did, however, appreciate a handful of things about this book, too. I appreciated that Shantanu and Chaitali didn't respond perfectly, but they responded in a human way. It was a reaction out of shock and confusion. They didn't know how to respond, so they said whatever popped into their heads, even if it was something they really didn't care about and I understand that. I get how you can think a million things, trying to wrap your brain around something and say the wrong thing because you don't know how to respond but you know you need to respond. And, you know what? Not everyone knows how to respond to these things when they're caught off guard. I also appreciated how the growth and the journey the characters went on were slow and little by little, like in real life.

Overall, the story was filled with emotion and reality. Everything has this feeling of simple complexity in it, their grief, their guilt and regret. It all just feels deeper then it looks, if that makes sense. And I loved that the family found the closure that they were looking for and even got to know her daughter more and, maybe even helped to advocate with others in the process. It was really sweet.


I give this book a


out of

10 notes

But that's just what I thought. What did you think? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Was it too slow for your tastes? Let us know in the comments.

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