Jyoti Patel’s debut, The Things That We Lost, is a beautiful and raw story of generational trauma. Set in northwest London, it captures the lives of an Indian-British family while addressing loss, longing, and belonging amongst migrant families. The author has also woven other interesting themes into the story – friendship, familial bonding, parental control, racism, mental health, and multiculturalism.
Though the author has dealt with many themes, the strength of the novel lies in its layered and emotional writing.
The story begins with the death of Nik’s grandfather, Rohan. Nik is extremely attached to his grandfather and the sudden demise leaves him heartbroken. But he has to deal with not just the loss, but a secret too. Right before passing away, his grandfather reveals little unknown details about Nik’s father’s demise. Elliot, Nik’s dad, passed away before Nik was born. But Nik knows he can never get his mother, Avani, to reveal the secret.
As the story progresses, we get to know more about Avani’s past; her troubled childhood and strained relationship with her brother, Elliot’s struggles, and Nik’s life as a child born to immigrants.
Avani and Nik are the central characters in this heartwarming story. Nik is such an adorable character. He is so loving and fragile and deserves to be happy. Nik’s grandfather remains my favourite. His character sketch is really beautiful and touching.
Not just Avani and Nik, but most of the characters are as flawed as humans can be. Chand, Maya, and Elliot come across as people we might have known in our lives or met on the streets. Avani’s mother and Paul could have been explored in an in-depth manner.
Patel looks at relationships and emotions from various angles. She shows Avani as a daughter, sister, wife, and mother to the readers. Her behaviour is a result of her experiences and the various roles she has played.
The story is narrated in a dual POV and dual timelines. This helped me in understanding the characters and their stories from close quarters. Though the transition is smooth, it took me a while to get used to it.
Patel has incorporated more than a few Gujarati words into the narration. I liked it a lot. It enhanced the authenticity of the narration and did not hamper my flow. However, a reader unfamiliar with the language might have difficulty comprehending it. I found it interesting that the author has not italicised the vernacular bits.
The Things That We Lost is a fantastic debut. It addresses grief, love, loss of loved ones, and relationships in an immersive manner. I would recommend this book to readers looking for a good family drama with well-sketched characters in an Indian setting.
Wordsopedia Rating 4.5/5
|Title: The Things That We Lost||Author: Jyoti Patel|
|Publisher: Merky Books||Publication date: January 12, 2023|
|Genre: Fiction—Contemporary||Format: Kindle|
|ISBN: 9781529186338||No. of Pages: 374|
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About the author
Jyoti Patel is a London-based author. She is a graduate of the University of East Anglia’s Prose Fiction MA and winner of the 2021 #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize. She was named as one of The Observer’s Top 10 debut novelists for 2023. Her writing has previously been published as part of We Present’s ‘Literally’ series and in the anthology for the 2022 Bristol Short Story Prize, for which she was shortlisted. ‘The Things That We Lost’ is her debut novel.