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The Women Who Forgot to Invent Facebook and Other Stories is Nisha Susan’s debut collection of stories that are hit-you-in-the-gut powerful, and stay with you with you after you finish them.
This is one of those books you have to think about after you put it down – it eludes description somehow. For those who read to escape – this is like a journey through very different, and sometimes uncomfortable, worlds.
Susan creates an eclectic cast of characters, each with powerful vulnerabilities.
Every story illustrates the interplay between technology and humanity, and the impact the former has on our relationships with others as well as with ourselves.
These people are vivid, diverse and completely three dimensional. If one looks hard enough, we can find small pieces of ourselves lurking within those insecurities. It is disconcerting and reassuring at the same time.
They are bold women and men (mostly women) trying to find their way through a digital world, where all the rules have changed, and everything is back on the table. They take chances and realise truths about themselves, sometimes just a moment too late.
Although not all the protagonists are women, the collection is dominated by strong female characters. They are characters that linger in your mind after the stories are over.
Among them, a woman who discovers the secret world of her husband’s former wife, a writer gets embroiled in Twitter wars, people experience chat rooms, a woman fantasises about love triangles, and a woman finds pieces of her job infiltrating her subconscious.
Susan’s style of writing is fluid and dreamlike, it pulls you along through its narrative as if you are a voyeur, getting glimpses into these character’s most uncomfortable moments – the type in which deep truths are uncovered.
A central theme is how technology isolates us yet brings us together in strange and unexpected ways. The role of technology, in a post-Covid world, where a major part of our contact with the outside world is through a screen, makes this book particularly relevant.
Our screens dilute who we are in various ways, but also, give us courage to be people we might not be otherwise. We are able to broadcast shades of who we want to be. Sometimes, as in the case of “The Gentle Reader” that backfires, in other cases, like in “Teresa,” it can allow us a space to escape and be who we are.
We often think of how screens can be false, but what Susan shows is how they open up a whole other dimension of being. This exploration challenges our conceptual notion of being connected as good or bad and pushes us into the grey area in between. It can be good and it can be bad. It can be temporarily satisfying or sometimes dismaying. It can be beautiful or ugly – and it can be truthful or dishonest.
Susan’s plots, like her characters, are diverse and nuanced – built meticulously through words and paragraphs till the boiling point hits you with a jolt. She keeps you guessing, scene after scene, sentence after sentence.
This is not a light or easy read, on the contrary – the stories are dense – layers packed upon layers. But they are well worth the effort to sink your teeth into. You’ll want to take your time with this.
The stories that stood out for me, were the title one, The Women who Forgot to Invent Facebook, for its pacing and dreamlike quality, Teresa for it’s fascinating twist, The Triangle for the completely unique concept and Mindful for the experience of drifting into one’s own headspace far away from an oblivious companion.
These tales will break your heart and make you squirm, but they will move you in some way. They will dig their claws into your roots and everything that makes you feel good and comfortable and uproot you whole. But you’ll thank them for it.
And that’s all we can ask for from a good book, isn’t it?
If you would like to pick up a copy of The Women Who Forgot to Invent Facebook and Other Stories by Nisha Susan, use our affiliate links at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.
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