Book Review: Just the Way You Are
If I was to judge a book solely by its cover, title and blurb, Sanjeev Ranjan’s third novel—Just the Way You Are, would score out of out in this particular review. But I am afraid the artistry under the covers has got to be just as good, and this is precisely where the book disappointed me big time.
That said, there is a simple and beautiful message concealed in this romantic novel—to love and to be loved for what we really are.
The story is about a good looking but apprehensive guy named Sameer who is begging for cupid to strike him and waiting for the lady called love to walk into his life. As it is, Sameer has long been eluded by this facet of life and right from his college days he’s had to face rejections and countless other miseries with girls. Friend-zoned by girls and misunderstood by friends, to add more to drama to Sameer’s life he also has a mother at home with whom he has had a rather tumultuous relationship. His only true respite in this sense lies with his father and a loyal friend named Guarav, who throughout the story preaches Sameer on the matters of love. Finally, after enduring years of loneliness while building his career and making peace with his mother, Sameer settles down with his parents for good, except that the love of his life has still not arrived.
Luckily, a timely vacation to Shimla does him all the good and at the age of thirty two, Sameer finally meets his potential life partner in Shagun. In no time the two of them fall head over heels in love with one another and things quickly progress to the point of marriage. All goes briskly and much to everyone’s delight, the couple is married off in a grand ceremony. However, it cannot be this simple for Sameer; it never has been. And as fate would have it, right on the day of his marriage Sameer is informed by a Swiss company that his application for a job he had applied for is accepted, the only catch being that he would have to join the company right away. In order to do that, he would have to travel to Switzerland the very next day of his marriage.
Torn between his dream job and the love he has waited for all his life, Sameer has a quick decision to make, and he wisely decides to take up the offer knowing very well that an opportunity of this magnitude is not to be missed. So, after a rather emotional confrontation with his bride, Sameer departs with a promise to return soon. Shagun, all alone and deprived of her first night with her husband, stumbles upon a personal diary of Sameer which she starts reading right away. As she delves deeper into Sameer’s back-story, it becomes crystal clear that the Sameer she is in love with and has gotten married to is totally different from the Sameer whose diary she’s reading. What has she found in the diary? How well does she know Sameer? How would it now affect their marriage? And most importantly, would she still love Sameer with all her might or is this another love lost for our troubled protagonist?
I have to admit that this plot had quite a bit of uniqueness and novelty about it. The whole setting of the book and the picture that the blurb projected had made me excited.
But, as it turned out, the execution from the author went lacking and not more than fifty pages into book, I had realized that this is another mediocre, run of the mill kind of a romantic novel. To be honest, by the time I finished reading the book, I wasn’t even sure if this was a romantic novel at all. Instead, it turned out to be the story of a man obsessed with finding love but one who has countless other problems going in life and is perhaps more in need of self-discovery rather than love. To justify what I feel, I can take up the numerous scenes between the mother-son duo, which though funny occasionally, hamper the storyline in a way that you end up craving for the protagonist to set out in search of his soul mate instead of talking and talking and talking with his mother who is a copy-paste of the stereotypical Indian mothers that we have been encountering in romantic fiction for years now.
Also, one cannot help but feel exhausted by the protagonist’s journey, for by the time he meets his lady love, the novel is all but over. This felt particularly disappointing because Shagun’s sweet character appeared quite a lot interesting and should have been a lot meatier with a handful of entertaining scenes between her and Sameer.
There are only a few positive things about this book and one of them is the author’s plain and simple narrative. The language is silky smooth and Ranjan presents his thoughts with utmost ease, but perhaps there is more telling than showing in the novel. In spite of the good narrative, the story feels unorganized, for it starts in a first person narrative but when the diary comes up [which is without any dates, by the way], it occasionally slips into a third person narrative in a rather bizarre manner.
Coming down to the characterization, I am of mixed opinion here; some characters like that of Shagun and Sameer’s father are sketched exceptionally but the protagonist himself comes across as a rather confused individual. Sameer, though hard-working, obedient and self made, is nothing short of a clueless teenager even at the age of thirty two. Some of the things that he does are praise-worthy, and then some are outright irksome. But then again he is only a human being and no doubt a man of flaws. Perhaps that is why we have to accept him just the way he is.
Though it appeared stretched or forced in some places, one of the better things that this novel has got on offer is the very realistic world that the younger version of Sameer lives in. The various scenarios he is caught up in, the confusions he has got within him and his quest or rather desperation to find love in life is presented pretty well.
In the acknowledgements section, Sanjeev Ranjan lets us know of an unfortunate incident when he lost his laptop and along with it went his half completed manuscript. It is harsh when such a calamity strikes but credit to him for pulling things together and re-writing a story which he so wanted to tell. Perhaps he has written it in a dash and even more than that, it has been proofread in an even greater hurry by the editor who has passed up a bucket full of typographical errors.
To conclude the matters, I would say the book lacks heart-warming emotions and an instant connect with the protagonist. All in all, I presume it is safe to say that this book is completely passable and though I can go on and on about how it could have been better, it is still just an okay read.
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