Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani
Somehow, I ended up reading two books about violence toward women in a row. Shortly after completing The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I picked up Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani, a story of violence and heartbreak that spans generations.
The story surprised me. It was a book I’d gotten through “Kindle First,” and, as Corey can attest, we’ve not had the best of luck with those in the past. But this time, the book was beautiful, thoughtful, complex and executed masterfully. A man sinks into an unexplained coma, and his three daughters and wife gather by his hospital bed to be present for what they believe to be his last weeks of life. Contrary to what their appearance might be, the women are drawn by fear and hatred rather than love. The story recounts this man’s actions, and the resonance those actions and their consequences have had in the lives of all four women.
This is not an easy story to read. While the language is beautiful and introspective, Badani is blunt where she needs to be blunt in order to portray the horror that comes from being a survivor of domestic abuse. She carefully unpicks the way in which that abuse and violence has affected each woman — making one daughter obsessed with achievement, another obsessed with order and perfection, and the last obsessed with escape and shame. But it’s not only about the way in which their father has failed them; it’s also about the ways in which they have failed each other, and how they can come to forgive one another and heal what is left of their family. It is a truly remarkable and sympathetic story, without glossing over any of the harsher aspects of domestic violence.
Badani also skillfully weaves the family’s Indian heritage into her work, without making it a story about being Indian. She writes about the struggles the family’s patriarch experiences in coming to America, uses the mother’s dress to show her growing strength and makes traditional Indian wedding attire a metaphor for fear and violence. But unlike what Aishwarya over at Practically Marzipan calls the “generic Indian Novel in America” (often signified by a pair of hands holding a mango), this work avoids cliches, so far as I can tell — and, thankfully, the publisher has avoided cliches in marketing this work. It’s about a family struggling with huge issues, and that family happens to be originally from India — not about a family from India struggling with huge issues.
With this book currently running only $4.99 for a Kindle version on Amazon, I’d highly suggest it as a book worth buying and reading again and again.