A Truly Touching Expression Of A Sister’s Love For A Brother With Autism!

Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.

Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.

I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.

At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.

A memoir written in one-sided epistolary format, Mostly Normal is structured as a chronological collection of letters from 2000-2019 that the author writes to her brother, Safal.

Safal is a neurologically challenged, differently abled child. He cannot speak, and no one can tell how much and what all he understands. He communicates in what would be called a socially inappropriate manner (hitting his sister whenever he wants to express something). The author, who yearned for a sibling before Safal was even conceived, cannot share the kind of relationship she envisaged with her brother. Nothing captures the poignant pain more beautifully than her own words from the book:

“I have a sibling, yet I am the only child. I have a brother, yet I don’t know how it feels to have a brother. I care for you, I love you yet I cannot do anything to help you. But above all, I love you.”

These words resonate deeply with me for reasons I choose not to share here. I could feel what the author must have felt while penning her thoughts.

Providing a glimpse of the author’s early childhood to her late teens, the book sheds light on diverse human traits ranging from yearning, innocence, deceit, shock, disbelief, dreams, challenges, struggles, hopes, aspirations, and finally acceptance. It conveys that differently-abled individuals need not be objects of pity; they have challenges and struggles just like any normal person, though the nature of their challenges might be different. It also showcases the perspective of the ‘normal’ sibling—being a caregiver of a special needs person is emotionally exhausting, and not everyone can manage that day in and day out. One small mistake and the caregivers tend to blame themselves, as the author also does two-three times in the book. The reader understands from the book that self-care and self-compassion are much needed in facing challenges.

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Not many people have the courage to bare a vulnerable part of their lives to the world, and for this alone, the author has my admiration. I can feel every single line of this book. Some of the unedited letters are so innocent and raw that I cried at places, while the ones written during her childhood in broken English made me smile. The confusion and turmoil that a teenager goes through are brought out well through some of the letters.

However, the book did feel incomplete to me as a reader. At a point in time, the author decides to stop writing these letters to her brother —who could not read them — and tell all to him directly. While I respect the author’s personal choice, for the purposes of the book, it would have been better for her to leave a note to the readers to inform them what Safal has been up to from 2019-2022. That would have made for a more satisfying closure.

Further, the typos, misspelt words and punctuation errors in some of the letters mar the reading experience. While the author’s notes to her brother were personal, once she published them in a book, they became public knowledge, and a tighter grammatical check was much required.

Nevertheless, the book is one of the most sensitive takes on human emotions. Kudos to the writer and her brother. The struggles a family of a special-needs child undergoes are not easy to comprehend, and Mostly Normal does a stellar job of bringing these challenges to the forefront in a deeply personal manner. It reminds us that instead of complaining, we should be grateful and blessed to have a life. In the author’s words, “Disability does not teach anyone patience and courage, life does. And life is for all of us.” For those looking for a quick yet inspiring read, this book won’t disappoint.

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Image source: galbiati from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro and book cover Amazon.

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About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

40 Posts | 48,266 Views

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