All the Tomorrows

Fiction - Literary
315 Pages
Reviewed on 11/01/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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!

Ankita Shukla

All the Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser is a mirror that reflects the standards that society has forced upon women and, unfortunately, women have also embraced these "norms" as their holy guidelines. Jaya's parents were unable to bear the expenses of her education and so decided to marry her off to a suitable boy. This arranged marriage would not only reduce their burden of marrying one out of their two daughters, but also free them of Jaya's academic needs. Jaya married Akash. In fact, Akash didn't get to say a lot in choosing his life partner as well. His parents decided that Jaya would be the perfect addition to their family. Thus started a loveless marriage wherein Jaya entered with an open heart to love her husband, while Akash entered as an empty shell. He thought this was normal, but when he saw Soraya for the first time, he understood what love must feel like. Soraya became his only desire, while Jaya became only a responsibility to him. As his affair with Soraya deepened, so did his disconnect with Jaya and his marriage.

Nillu Nasser has presented the naked truth, however ugly it is, in black and white. The bounds of society are so tight all around each and every individual that when Jaya told her mother about Akash's infidelity, instead of being her mother, she gave Jaya a lecture on how many ways she was letting down her family by thinking of leaving her husband. If even a mother turns her back on her child, where does the child seek strength from? Society, as we know it, makes it too easy for a man to commit an act of infidelity and blame it on his "being a man," and the unfortunate part is that many women, too, have accepted this as the truth. The real trauma that a couple goes through in a loveless marriage is also bared in this book. The author hasn't shied away from openly discussing the dark emotions that torment such couples. Although it's easy to blame Akash for an affair with another woman, it is not difficult to see that he was unhappy in a marriage that was forced upon him.

The author has kept the plot as close to reality as possible and that increased my interest in reading this book all the more. Each relationship is written with complete authenticity; for instance, as sisters, Jaya and Ruhi shared their deepest concerns and personal thoughts without worrying about any judgment, much like most sisters do. The story develops at a slow but steady pace from one event to another. The central emotion (or theme) of the book is grief and I wanted some other emotions to create a distraction from it every now and then. Having said that, I loved how the author created a powerful and self-sufficient image of a woman who does not rely on a man to make her complete. Jaya wishes for love but does not diminish her own value in its pursuit. I would recommend this book to the readers who like stories that challenge the widespread "societal norms" and encourage self-acceptance before anything else.

Romuald Dzemo

“She stood in the midst of it all, her face contorted as she burned. Her flesh began to melt and the tortuous flames ripped through her until there was nothing else, only agony.” All the Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser is a gripping tale of love and betrayal and, most importantly, a tale of fire. It is a wonderful story that explores tragedy in love, and the madness to which societal mores can drive a soul. If only he could, Akash Choudry would have chosen his own wife, but pressure from family leads him to accept getting married to Jaya. When Akash starts having an affair, Jaya sees her life crumbling. Unable to overlook his indiscretions, she surrenders to jealousy and makes a desperate move to give her husband what he deserves — a reason not to want to touch her again.

The story is compelling and original, and it immediately transports the reader into the heart of a culture, a setting that reflects the thrills and perils of Bombay, capturing powerful images of the place in vivid clarity, from the dust of the overcrowded streets to the morality of Bombay. The characters are memorable, well-developed, and deeply explored. The conflict is strong and the reader is captivated as it escalates into a crisis point. All the Tomorrows is a wonderful read and the humanity that is injected into the writing will greatly appeal to readers. Nillu Nasser is a gifted and a great entertainer. This novel is balanced and utterly engrossing.