Book Review: Slices of Life by Richa Gupta

Thank you to the author for the review copy.

The thing about short stories is that they need to capture your attention and hold it for the duration that they span. Unless given particular attention to, they could turn into a quagmire from which extracting yourself becomes a thing of relief. And one doesn’t want to come away reading anything relieved that it’s over. You want them to be thoughtful, at the very least, and ecstatic about having read the book, if we’re talking maximum reach and effects.

Richa Gupta’s Slices of Life is a collection of short stories that span different genres and explore various facets of the human personality and psyche in a manner that makes you think and speculate and introspect about where we as humans come from, and where we are going. There are stories in there that can be classified as futuristic fiction, there are those that are domestic fiction, those that are contemporary fiction, those that talk about women empowerment, about familial relationships, friendships, romances, and daily life, and a whole lot more that you will probably be surprised to find in there.

What I Liked About ‘Slices of Life’:

  • I loved the variety of genres and themes that the author has packed in here. This medley makes sure that there is something in there for everyone.
  • Throughout these stories, there is an underlying sense of women empowerment that will become blatantly obvious (in the best way possible) in hindsight.
  • Every story has a strong woman character, although the choices that they make might not all be something that you will like. And I feel like that’s alright. Everyone is human and makes mistakes, after all.
  • The story Watershed is about breaking away from a toxic relationship and finding independence, and is one of my favorite stories from the lot.
  • The author shows the different shades of relationships that women can have with each other, and doesn’t stick to just one color. Come to think of it, there are all sorts of relationships in here that you will love to read about.
  • Parent-child relationships can be more complicated than any other in this world, and these short stories have some that you will find cute, some that will anger you, some that will make you laugh, some that will fill you with affection, and some that will make you cry. It’s a beautiful thing to read, to say the least.
  • There are a couple of stories in here that I found to be really, really well written. For example, Watershed, that talks about a toxic relationship and reigniting old career passions; Bridal Wear, that shows how a wedding can be a manic time in the life of the people getting married; The Incomplete Story, a story that is complete in its incompleteness while showing that you don’t have to complete a story for it to make sense; Dusk, a story about migrant labourers set during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What I Didn’t Like About ‘Slices of Life’:

Unfortunately, there are quite a few things that I didn’t like about this book, as much as I think that the book is a good one to read:

  • The writing is unnecessarily complicated, using too many big words where smaller would have given the text an equally well-written vibe. Because of this, it reads like a textbook in quite a few places.
  • It becomes repetitive and monotonous in a few places with no progress being made on the plot.
  • There are disconnected dialogues and narratives that give the stories a bland flavor. It’s either just a long list of dialogue, or blocks of description. We don’t know how the dialogues were delivered, we don’t know what the character was thinking and feeling as they said them, and we don’t know how the character was impacted as events unfolded.
  • A few of the stories didn’t have a final destination. The author built up with details that, at the end of these stories, I found myself asking, “Of what significance were these details? Why did these events happen? What was the point of it all?” And I found a deafening silence greeting me.
  • Pitting a woman against a woman for the attention of a man or a Bride Wars style quiet fight for a wedding trousseau – please no!
  • Old notions of “A woman’s strongest bond is with her child” or “A woman’s future without matrimony and maternal fulfilment (the author’s words) is a land barren. How can she cope with it?”
  • The author keeps mixing up the names of the characters. Myra and Kyra are interchanged. Tiya and Ayesha are interchanged. Who comes where is really confusing in such cases.

Final Verdict:

While Slices of Life has quite a few facets that I didn’t like, there are also those that I really enjoyed reading. And it’s because of these pros that I would say that this is a book that you can pick up and read on a rainy day, contemplating the points that the author makes while you stare out into the rain. I wouldn’t say vociferously, but I would recommend this book.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Amazon India

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