It was tough not to judge this book by its cover. A man running for what looked like eons propped the idea of reading about a man’s challenging journey to reach the pinnacle of success, especially since the synopsis at the back described an Olympic struggle. And what better time to find myself reading Shriram Iyer’s first book than during the 2012 Olympics! It turned out to be, however, far from what I had assumed.
The narrative begins at a good pace as the reader is introduced to the Sethi family – Akshay, the disciplinarian ex-air force pilot, Sharada, his submissive and demure wife, and their two sons, deaf and mute Raj and the golden boy Saurav. Typical of most Indian families, the child that excels at everything he does is favoured while the other one becomes a loner. The setting soon shifts from war-ridden India to America and the family struggles to adjust to a new country. While Saurav aces everything he tries his hand at, Raj faces despair – torment by bullies, pressures of coping with a mainstream curriculum and ignorance from his family. When Saurav decides to give up his promising tennis career and a sponsorship deal to help Raj achieve his dream of running the marathon at the Olympics, the family is torn apart. What follows is an uphill journey filled with numerous potholes as the Sethi brothers strive to achieve excellence and challenge conventions.
The main problem with this book is its innate idealism. It is hard to believe that a character can excel at academics, sports, be good looking, socially popular and manage to have a perfect love life. The characters are portrayed as being stark white or dark black, none that touch the grey shades that humanity is made up of. While you feel that the characters will unravel through the book, the author focuses more on progressing the story through the course of the book, leaving his characters lost in the process.
The transformation of emotions seemed unrealistic, as ignorance and pompousness is shown to sprout into selflessness and a bond of brotherhood suddenly, without the catalyst events being elaborated upon. The narrative ceases to hold fort, the plot is filled with loopholes and the sub-plots fail to create the intended impact in the reader’s mind. Coupled with several spelling mistakes and bad editing, this book doesn’t live up to the excellence its characters strive to achieve.
What started out as an interesting read turned into a rather dull journey, especially at the climax where it seemed like all the author wanted was to be done with the story. Having two powerful plots in the form of the brotherhood between Saurav and Raj, and Raj’s efforts to run the Olympic marathon leaves the reader muddled and unable to decide which one the book is about. Overall, Wings of Silence failed to impress.