Book Review: Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal

Bluemoose Books haven’t let me down yet. And in this year of 2020, when the rest of the world seems out of kilter, their unique commitment to publishing only women writers seems spot on.

Their latest title, published on 20th October Should we fall behind by Sharon Duggal, is yet another triumph. A testament to people, a patchwork of individual stories that weave together to form a community. Stories that sometimes go unheard, even untold but nevertheless form the bedrock of actions and reactions and affect the lives of others around them.

At the heart of this story is Jimmy. Young, troubled and homeless, he finally seems to find a human connection with another young homeless girl, Betwa. When Betwa disappears Jimmy finds himself drawn to the neighbourhood she has described, desperate to find the warmth and humility she has awakened within him.

Within this novel are a cast of people waiting to be found. Multigenerational, multicultural, these skilfully drawn characters all come together in one place. But each have different stories that have modelled and shaped them.

Here are a collection of lives that haven’t taken the course individuals have hoped. In each case familial relationships have both nurtured and disappointed; at times they have twisted, at times they have broken. Each character harbours their losses and regrets, there is a tangible sense of each holding themselves still and close , trying to not to crack as they get through each day.

The arrival of Jimmy within their community, a human being at his lowest ebb, acts as a catalyst. For Rayya, looking after her dying husband, watching the love of her life disappear before her eyes, her long buried maternal feelings are reignited and she reaches out with compassion and empathy.

Ebele, running from her past, protecting her young daughter, reacts with hostility and fear. While landlord, Nikos Makrides, can barely lift himself from his own grief and loss to feel anything at all.

With insight and clarity Duggal brings the community of characters together, woven tight with a gentle prose, sharpen with an edge of humanity and reality that brings some sense of resolution to each character. Here is a story that effortlessly pulls the reader into the depths of character’s hopes, dreams and despair. Here is a commentary on how we treat our fellow man, when our fellow man is in desperate need. This is a window on what individuals truly see when they encounter a homeless person or more specifically when they fail to see. Why, for example, do we equate possessions with actual human worth? When does a person stop being seen as a person? With intelligence and perception this writing sweeps away the myths surrounding street dwellers and forces us to look beyond what we think we see.

The relationship developing between Betwa and Jimmy , shows us the best of human connections. It is this relationship that reawakens him and gives him purpose, and it is a process repeated within the story of other characters . This novel is a web of human connection, radiating outwards in the most joyful way.

Thank you Bluemoose for the chance to read this special title, another gem in the crown.

Rachel x