Author : Chhimi Tenduf-La
Publisher : Pan Macmillan India
Genre : Short Stories, GBTQ, Contemporary
Source : Publisher
Rating : 3.5 Stars
Chhimi Tenduf-La is an author that I shall have to keep an eye out for. I have had The Amazing Racist on my wishlist for a while but for some reason I never realised it was one of his books till I added this to my ‘Currently Reading’ list on my goodreads and noticed TAR in the recommendations. So, while I have been umming and ahhing about getting that for a while, it will now jump onto my priority list.
I noticed this first when I was compiling a list of upcoming books that I really wanted to get my hands on. The gorgeous cover drew my attention, not to mention that quote from Nayomi Munaweera on the cover that says, ‘One of the island’s greatest chroniclers … These are stories both sordid and sweet that gathered together pack a hefty punch’
Now, I normally don’t read quotes from authors and I almost never base my book choices on them but this time, it made sense to want a book based on what another author I like says about it. And as luck would have it, I was sent a review copy!
Loyal Stalkers is a collection of 15 interconnected short stories meaning one character from a story makes an appearance in another story here, sometimes playing a significant part and sometimes appearing in more than one story. If you have read my short story reviews before you know that I would make a list of all the stories here and tell you what it is about without bothering about spoilers because how can short stories have spoilers right? But here, I will have to be careful because the connected stories give away an aspect of the character’s lives that you should not know if you are to enjoy this thoroughly. So what I will do instead is tell you what I liked and what I disliked.
WHAT I LIKED : I adored how the author examines different themes in this collection, from parental to childhood, from the affection one would feel for something they lost to the desperation of both the rich and the poor to make more money. It isn’t all just one style or just one kind of story. Each one is different and there will be something in here for everyone. The author takes the seemingly ordinary and turns it into something that fascinates you and keeps you engrossed.
Now if Sri Lanka is anything like India (and based on the stories I have to say they are) there will be a diverse set of people withing one small confined space, an island. Meaning each character will be forced to interact with another whether they like it or not and the author finds a way to showcase this closeness. Whether it is a waiter from a high end cafe who doesn’t want to serve a family that he thinks are too poor to tip well or a silent, almost mute by choice, gym trainer who develops an unhealthy obsession with a rich client he has, to the point of stalking her. A tourist who falls for a married man and a maid who imagines herself in the place of her mistress. Every character finds a place in these pages turning it into a ‘six degrees of separation’ collection.
These stories will surprise you with car chases, murders and even a serial killer! (I told you this book had something for everyone, didn’t I?) You are bound to find a story that you keep with you for a long time to come. As for my favourites, they were Sending A Night Breeze, Balls, My Fair And Lovely Lady, Loyal Stalker and Suspiciously Brown. I particularly liked the title story because of just how damn creepy it was and suspiciously brown because the author……I can’t say. It’ll be a spoiler. But you will enjoy it if you’re anything like me.
WHAT I DISLIKED : While I enjoyed each story, some of the endings were a bit predictable. I am not sure if the author intended the endings to be a surprise, if he didn’t then this isn’t really worth mentioning. But, I did feel like it would have been interesting had the ending been a little less obvious. But that is all I disliked, nothing else.
Normally, I find a short story collection sort of bitter sweet. There are very few collections where I didn’t hate a story enough to stop reading it midway but with this, I found that that wasn’t the case. I enjoyed each story, even the one about, cringe, cricket!
In a private room sheltered from the Colombo riots, a seventeen-year-old girl gives birth to a hatechild. At a city gym, an introverted fitness instructor obsesses over his unattainable client. Inside an untended guest-house room, an adolescent cricket champ is caught unawares by his coach’s violent fury. By a rain-drenched gravesite, a special-needs teacher confides in a stranger.
Edgy yet tender, racy yet warm, these interlinked stories take us into the unfamiliar everyday of Sri Lankan living, where smugglers, waiters, single moms and cheaters cross paths as they attempt to negotiate a web of shock, subterfuge and irony.
A collection of infinite brio and charm, this is Chhimi Tenduf-La at his inventive best.