At Their Worst and Most Human

Nancy's Kairali Massage Parlour

Earlier, I had read Archana Painuly’s novel, Where do I belong. I enjoyed following the inter-entwining stories and experiencing the individual destinies as they unfold. I was able to relate to many ideas expressed and issues raised. Human nature is universal, and many of the dilemmas her characters encounter are universal. The search for identity is also universal, i.e. the individual’s search for identity, its insecurities contra “society”, society’s expectations.

Now I have had the chance to read the manuscript of Nancy’s Kairali Massage Parlour. The moment I started reading it, I was hooked and became engrossed by Nancy’s destiny and the dilemmas of her turbulent inner life!

I love Archana’s style of writing. I love the quiet, thoughtful mood Archana achieves throughout the novel. Archana’s writing is both simple and profound, a combination I very much appreciate. Her talent for storytelling is a treat for the reader. I appreciate that she brings in the Hindu/Muslim storyline too. I find the manuscript very well-written. She pays close attention to details. I enjoyed the way in which the scenery and the ocean “theme” complement/underpin the storyline too. As always, her characters are well-rounded and human. I managed to get through the whole manuscript in two days because I couldn’t put it down! I find the novel very well-composed. I like the ideas/plots and the way the author creates suspense throughout. I like the way Archana keeps all the ends together to create a meaningful “whole”. I enjoyed the symbolism, the theme of identity, and gender, which the author explores so thoughtfully. I particularly enjoyed being in India, and the warmth with which the scenery and characters were described.

Archana is great at putting into words “the human experience”, and her characters are all very human, even at their worst. In their moments of vulnerability or challenge, the characters remain profoundly human. Thought-provoking stuff, disturbing at times, but with difficulties always being overcome.

I really enjoyed Nancy’s Kairali Massage Parlour. All the suspense, the author’s power of observation, and spot-on assessment of human nature! The storylines were very engaging, and there was plenty of character development. Kunjamma, Appa, Maureen, Laura, Philip, Joshua, Neil, Paul… all the characters are likeable, and we form an instant connect with them. The massage parlour is quite highlighted, described beautifully and tempts the readers for a massage.

I love the way Archana examines themes from so many different angles via various characters with all their different backgrounds, dreams, and expectations. It’s very, very thought-provoking. Great job! It is very intricate and complex, even though the language was simple in style. She experiments with so many ideas and keeps full control, so there are no loose ends!

Well-written in English, the text does not come across as having been translated from Hindi, which is interesting. It reads very naturally in English, as if Archana has written it in her second mother tongue! I found it interesting when Marco came into the scene. The text changed somewhat, the style changed. No idea why, but it was something I noticed. Under all circumstances, these points do not actually mar the text, which has clearly been written by an experienced writer.

It is amazing how many characters and perspectives Archana presents, and I really enjoy and found it engaging with some of the dramatic storylines, characters, and interesting themes.