Tall Man Small Shadow by Vipin Behari Goyal Book ReviewBook: Tall Man Small Shadow
Author: Vipin Behari Goyal
Rating (Goodreads, Amazon, Flipkart – overall): 4.35
Reviewer: Anwesha Bose
Reviewer Rating: 3.9
Review Date: November 8, 2013
What do you see when you see a person for the first time? Is it his attire that you notice? His hair? Are you drawn towards his words? You might have gone as far as to see whether his shoes are polished. But I am pretty sure you never noticed his shadow.
The bench under the jacaranda tree, where I often sit and contemplate, is unoccupied. The bench is in an isolated corner of the park surrounded by many flowering trees. There was a violet carpet of jacaranda flowers on the ground. I could catch my breath here. Except for some voices of children in the distance, the park was totally silent. Slowly these voices also became part of silence and I am at peace.
[pullquote align="left"] Tall Man Small Shadow
Author: Vipin Behari Goyal
Our collective life falls into a new shape each time our roads cross with someone else. It often changes our philosophy and outlook towards life, coerce us into taking actions our own selves were unaware we were capable of doing. Studying the way the human mind works is intriguing, and even more so when you get to do it at the comfort of your recliner, sipping your favorite beverage and reading a book.
For those who connect a 150 page novel with a light read, Tall Man Small Shadow may come as a pleasant surprise. Though devoid of any complicated diction or tangled plot, the novel is not absolutely straightforward.
Tall Man Small Shadow by Vipin Behari Goyal : About the story
Narrated in multiple voices, the primary narrator is a man named Anupam. He is the father of a girl, Aalya, who is now a woman by all means, and husband to a loving wife who is mostly confined to her bed owing to health ailments. A young man moves into the apartment next to his, he is Salil. This young lad has a fascination for shadows, and he is for some reason drawn towards Aalya’s shadow. Aalya meanwhile falls into a complicated relationship with her thesis guide Seema who is dissatisfied with her life with her husband Paul.
The story begins when Salil moves in to the apartment and his neighbor goes to deliver him a package. This is witnessed by his daughter who likes the new neighbor, though tries to convince herself that it is nothing more than just a passing attraction. Coaxed by her mother Sulekha to send their neighbor a bowl of kabuli, she meets the man for the first time up close. Having recently finished her post graduation in English literature, she needed to finish her thesis work, for which her guide, Dr Seema calls her home. Seema though, has plans of her own.
Dr. Seema and her husband Paul, who was the founder of a drama club, lived a nonexistent life as a couple. Each had their own demons to deal with. Seema on one hand was crushed by fate for being unable to bear children with her husband. Paul on the other, wanted to break the glass ceiling with his art.
To fulfill a bit of the void in her life, Seema draws Aalya in her life and the two embark on a journey that is both confusing yet intoxicating for the two.
As the events unfold, Salil comes as a savior for Seema, Aalya and Paul by offering to be the sperm donor for the couple’s children. Aalya decides to donate her eggs. As Seema and Paul get blessed with beautiful children, Aalya and Salil get married. But the story does not end here. Destiny manages to find a way to even balance and takes turns of its own.
The most fascinating part is revealed in the end as Sulekha narrates events from her point of view. It is then that the pieces of puzzles fall into place, and you are left with a sense of wonder and surprise.
Book Review: Tall Man Small Shadow
Most parts have been narrated by Anupam. The narration is interspersed with philosophical thoughts on life, destiny and existentialism. Often the narrator likes to sit below a jacaranda tree and ponder upon the chirping of birds, the actions of fellow beings and decide what to do next. The most interesting parts of the story where when he would board a train of thought and take the reader to unknown destination. What may start as a thought on a bird may end in a question of whether the bird or leaves actually exist.
The story in itself has plots and sub plots, not very complicated, yet not very simple. What happened to Salil before he moved in, the relationship between young Aalya and her guide Seema; each is a sub story in a bigger story.
As an honest opinion, the narration is bigger and exceeds the excellence of the story itself in the case of “Tall Man Small Shadow by Vipin Behari Goyal”.
Despite being a short novel in the count of pages, the reader may defer to devoting a little longer to it than necessary. You need to savor the words, flow with the thoughts of the narrator and see what unfolds. With the absence of nail biting thriller, you can have the luxury of soaking in the philosophical interludes of the plot.
As a narrative novel, Tall Man Small Shadow takes the reader on a journey of ideas, thoughts and philosophy. Very delicate topics have been touched upon maturely and a plot woven around the characters flawlessly.
RatingPlot and Pace: 4
Writing Style: 4.5
Overall Rating: 3.9/5
Tall Man Small Shadow: Official Synopsis
This book is romantic fiction based on existentialism. It deals with many aspects of life such as break up, attempted suicide, entrepreneurship, infertility, lesbianism, multicultural ethos, IVF/IUF, uneven marital relationship etc.
Tall Man Small Shadow: Official Foreword by Rosa Maria USA
The primary narrator is Anupam. Appropriate to his personality, his name means “unparalled.” He believes, among other things, “It is good to pray even if you do not believe in God.” Anupam’s sanctuary, his place of meditation, is a park bench under his favorite tree, a jacaranda. His primary function in the novel is to coin existentialist philosophies for the day-to-day events that take place in his life, which centers on his wife, Sulekha, and their only child, Aalya.
Goyal also gives voice, at appropriate points in the novel, to some of the other characters. The philosophical issues explored in this novel are complex and challenging to the traditionally accepted social and religious beliefs of many cultures. However, the storyline has the simplicity of a fable, and it is this, if you will, “magically innocent” element of the story that enables the author to succeed in “suspending our disbelief” long enough to experience this enjoyable controversial novel.
Having survived a suicide attempt after losing the love of his life due to their star-crossed situation, Salil begins to pick up his life in his new home and finds he is falling in love with the small shadow of the lovely girl next door, Aalya, the daughter of Anupam and Sulekha.
A Ph.D. candidate researching “uneven” relationships in English literature, Aalya develops a bond with her thesis guide, Seema, an older childless woman married to Paul, a drama director.
Aalya and Seema become secret lovers, while Aalya falls in love with Salil and Seema continues to be faithfully married to Paul. A visit to a fertility clinic eventually results in Seema’s giving birth to twins, whose biological parents are Salil and Aalya. Paul consistently demonstrates complete faith in his wife and never questions the parentage of his twins, though he is well aware they cannot be his biologically.
Salil and Aalya eventually get married, and an untimely accident renders Salil incapable of fathering a child. However, the kindness they showed to Seema and Paul is about to come back on them. Salil and Aalya will soon find themselves rich in all that is most important in life, and Salil’s philosophy, “Gratitude is a way of reducing the importance of what somebody has done for you,” will give new meaning to the concept of “divine intervention.”
After we have come to know Aalya’s mother, Sulekha, for the majority of the novel from her husband’s point of view, she suddenly speaks directly to us as the narrator, and we get to know a very different woman from the bedridden asthmatic wife who is always drinking tea that Anupam has shown us. Sulekha emerges as the prime mover of the series of “coincidences” that occur leading up to the marriage of her beloved daughter. Sulekha is the one who bridges the gap between what is socially unacceptable and what is divinely possible in order to preserve her daughter’s long and happy life.
About the Author: Vipin Behari Goyal
Vipin Behari Goyal is a Financial Advisor in Government of Rajasthan by profession. His love for books is unparalleled making him an avid reader as well as a prolific writer.
His debut English novel “Tall man small shadow” based on existentialism was published in July 2013. His prior writings include a travel handbook on “TirthRaj Pushkar” and a collection of Hindi poems titled “Tej Dhoop Ka Safar”.
He has also dabbled in documentary film making and is the maker of award-winning short film “Mines are Mine”.
Forthcoming Novels “Maya In Search of Tantric father” and “The old man and the nymph”.
In his words, he says “Like in all other walks of life, in literature also “Honesty is the best policy”. When it is written with honesty and read with equal or rather more honesty, it makes the book immortal. The more burden lies on the shoulder of the reader. If he reads the book that are based on false values, it means he appreciates and promotes Hippocratic literature. Ultimately he becomes responsible for dragging the society in the wrong direction. He does not want the people to understand the true meaning of life, and condemns any efforts made in that direction by the author as well as other readers. Why he would do so?”