Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Where to begin reviewing a book as near perfect as All the Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser? Given this is literary fiction, which is character rather than plot driven, perhaps one should start there, with Jaya, the protagonist, and her husband, Akash, who love each other, but don’t really know how much until several decades after a tragic incident. Not really giving his love for Jaya a chance to grow in their relatively new marriage, Akash is unfaithful to Jaya with the happy-go-lucky, liberated Soraya who doesn’t know he is married. When Jaya finds them together, she is devastated, and in an almost zombie state while cooking, does the unthinkable. She survives, saved by her sister Ruhi, and not by Akash who witnesses the horrible incident. When Akash is told by Jaya’s father that Jaya has died and he is never to set foot in their home again, Akash is plunged into a pit of despair, unable to forgive himself for the pain his indiscretion has caused.
During the subsequent years, Akash lives as a bum on the streets of Bombay, his only companion a homeless man, Tariq, who teaches Akash what love truly means. In the meantime, with the help of Ruhi, Jaya slowly recovers both mentally and physically. Trying as she might to forget Akash and the love she had for him, she finds her strength in being a woman daring to challenge the customary role of women in her culture i.e. acceptance of their subservience to men. Her own mother is a thorn in her side, blaming Jaya for her husband’s unfaithfulness and ever reminding her that this is just the way it is for Indian women. Bit by bit, readers cheer for Jaya as she rejects her mother’s views and the limitations of her cultural upbringing.
But Jaya and Akash aren’t the only characters in this wonderful story who capture readers’ hearts. There is Ruhi, the loving sister, who won’t let Jaya give up on herself and life. There is Firoz, who mentors Jaya’s talented artwork. There is Soraya, who surfaces again later in the story, and to readers’ delight and surprise emerges as yet another marvellous example of just how strong women are. There’s the female policewoman who sees what her male counterparts don’t. Her insight into humanity saves Akash from prison. And then there’s Tariq, Akash’s homeless bum companion; he is unforgettable.
All the Tomorrows is rich in engaging, realistic characters who grab readers' hearts and minds and don’t let them go till all the story is told. And what a story it is! Yet, make no mistake: while All the Tomorrows is character driven, those who enjoy a good plot will not be disappointed. There are enough twists to keep plot-lovers reading. But without doubt, what holds readers most are Nillu Nasser’s characters. This is superb writing in for a first novel from a very gifted author. Congratulations to Nillu Nasser and to Evolved Publishing for recognizing her talent. Personally, I hope I get to be amongst the first to read her next novel, Hidden Colours, when it’s released. Bravo!