The Storyteller's Secret, Some Distant Sunrise
Every once in awhile, I’ll pick up a book that is not my normal cup of tea. The Storyteller’s Secret is one such novel that could not be ignored for long. With over 6,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon, I had to give in to my arguing proclivities and take a peek. It also certainly helped that it is a book enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program, a service I recently subscribed to and will most definitely elaborate on in further bloggys. But back to The Storyteller’s Secret… once I broke through my worser literary judgement, it was impossible turn back.
In the past, I would devour novels from beginning to end, regardless of whether I even liked them. But lately I find I have a low tolerance for stories I don’t care for. These days, I’m still trying to read anything that comes my way, but as I find myself getting older and with limited reading time on my hands (#SAHD), I disregard books left and right, sometimes before I get to page 50. That said, I didn’t think I was going to like The Storyteller’s Secret. Clearly, I was wrong.
In the opening, we are introduced to Jaya, a woman who is recovering from her third miscarriage. “Oh,” I thought. “It’s one of those tragic stories that is going to try to make me cry. Must I persist?” The writing was very good and it was keeping me interested, so I read on.
It didn’t take long to become taken with Jaya’s story. I felt emotions for her! Rare and raw emotions! It wasn’t merely bred of a deep empathy for her inability to create life (which in and of itself was devastating), I also found myself immediately concerned for her disintegrating relationship with her husband and a seemingly distant and unfeeling one she had with her mother. When, early on, Jaya learns news that will send her to India, her mother’s home, I was admittedly cautious. Would this be some Eat, Pray, Love wannabe jaunt? I couldn’t say. Mostly because I never read Eat, Pray, Love. And yet I read on. Because, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I couldn’t stop.
“Psst… it has to be the writing.”
This is a tale of romance and tragedy. You get two for the price of one. There are parts, for sure, where the casual male reader may roll his eyes and think, “Oh, the girls must love this.“ But even so, those weepy-eyed love scenes are sweet and well-earned. Getting to them and through them is a neat trick in and of itself. Before I knew what hit me, I was feeling all the appropriate feels.
It was interesting albeit heartbreaking to learn of different misogynistic aspects of Indian culture, many of which are encapsulated in a time far removed. Though I imagine some of the less harsh traditions still remain, it has to be difficult for Indian women to bow down (metaphorically speaking) to their men.
Amisha (Jaya’s grandmother) makes the best out of her shackled life. Riva, a servant who worked for Amisha, relays her life story to Jaya. The way in which his telling is interspersed with Jaya’s own narrative is probably my favorite aspect of the book. The two women are separated by generations, yet it feels as if they are sitting next to each other the whole time, listening to a seasoned orator spin their own tales.
Riva is a character who, despite taking on society’s loathsome view of himself as an “untouchable,” is always a delight to observe, from this side of the page. Riva knows all Amisha’s secrets, sometimes he knows them even before she knows herself. Their relationship is symbiotic in nature and the two very nearly complete each other, platonically speaking.
Minor criticisms hardly worth mentioning: Though the page count is a bit longer than an on-the-fence reader might be comfortable with, that is a ridiculous way in which to judge a book. And since we’re on the subject of judging a book, I don’t believe the simplistic cover is doing it any favors. Although I suppose it does the job it sets out to do, I’m not sure what that is.
By the end, The Storyteller’s Secret leaves you a little emotionally damaged but glad you took the trip.
One of the most challenging things to do in story writing is to convey a perspective that you don’t embody yourself. The unnamed protagonist of Some Distant Sunrise has a history of bad decisions that led to serious drug abuse. It’s a tale we’ve heard all too much in popular culture but here, in comprised form, it seems even more damaging, somehow. In the acknowledgements, Elliott Downing gave thanks to several DJs for their invaluable input. Having never been a DJ himself, Downing excelled at describing the intrinsic beat one might evolve into while immersed in that lifestyle. It is no doubt a diametric rhythm to that of the strung out junkie, a character who is entirely devoid of any melodies save for the one he chases but never catches, by way of the needle.
Admittedly, it did take a handful of pages to fully appreciate who the protagonist was and where he was coming from, but once I got to know him, it was easy to root for the guy. It is apparent that music is his greatest love and it systematically gets rooted out of him by a drug called heroin and a girl named Lynn.
Ah Lynn, what can I say about this destructor? This minx? Our protagonist is instantly taken with her and eager to please. Their meet cute has some obstacles to get over, but quickly they share sexy intimacies in a rather expensive photo booth. Beyond that, they crash full on in to each other and the degradation begins.
This won’t spoil anything because it’s in the author’s own Amazon description: Lynn dies of an overdose and then comes back to haunt our hero. When she makes herself known to him, he doesn’t seem all that surprised. In fact, it sparks memories of the time they spent together. It is by this construct, we learn of their shared past. It is a flawless telling of times gone by, interwoven masterfully into the present ghost story. There are several plot lines at work here and each expresses its own raw emotions. From lust to necessity to disgust to fear and back again, there’s not a whole heck of a lot of goodness spewing from either of these characters. That is, until the protagonist gets clean.
In one of the most predictable yet still satisfying and even humorous scenes, our main junkie hits a figurative and literal wall. Thus sending him to prison to rehabilitate and recover, to come out a better man than he went in, and just ripe for the spooking.
This story is staying with me. I can't shake it. I kinda sorta want to shake it because it disturbed me on levels I didn’t think it would. It surprises you with bits and moments of grace amidst terror. I found it frighteningly beautiful to the point where I don’t wanna let go. It is a quick, enjoyable read that showcases the poetry of music on display astride one man's haunts. It’s different than most of what you’ve read as of late and it reminds you of the best parts of smart lit.