A lot can go wrong when writing a book that takes on a difficult subject like religious polarization and introduces the same to middle-graders. A certain kind of maturity is demanded from the writer to ensure that the story does not come across as being biased. It is here that I felt author Savie Karnel shined the most as a storyteller with her debut book “The Nameless God”.
The book takes you back to 90s India and into the lives of two children, Bachu and Noor who decide to create a God who listens only to them. It was this concept that grabbed my interest at first because I remember toying with this idea as a kid with a close friend. We eventually lost interest in that God, but these children were more resolute. Also, their God seemed more responsive than ours, when a miracle is performed the very next day—a holiday from school! However, what the kids do not know is that the holiday was declared due to the Babri Masjid demolition. Unaware that riots have broken out across the country, they go to thank their God for the miracle performed. What unfolds thereafter is what the book is all about.
The author invests sufficient time in the beginning, to set up the world, introduce the characters and gradually move to the point of conflict. When things turn for the worst, we as readers are fully invested in the lives of Bachu and Noor. This was well-crafted.
The language is lucid and consistent. There was nothing pretentious about it. Many times, especially debut authors get into the trap of making the prose beautiful and lyrical without a strong enough story to back the words. For me, as a reader that is deceiving. This is a book written for middle-graders with a clear purpose and the author achieves what she sets out for by the end of it. The use of humor to lighten the mood when things get murky was clever, especially considering the age group the book is primarily catering to.
There were some moments though where I felt that the author could have let certain scenes linger for just that minute extra to make them more impactful. To elaborate, several events unfold on one wretched night in the lives of the boys when they are caught in the crossfire, and each scene has a definite purpose and clear message. Several characters come and go, playing a small part in the larger scheme of things. Some readers may like this fast-paced writing while others may want certain powerful moments to linger more. This I don’t consider a flaw but more a matter of taste. Moreover, this could be an adult’s perspective.
From the beginning, we know that the book is going to end on a hopeful note. The progression to that ending did not feel abrupt, which means that the story is structured well. And I liked how that was achieved by the author.
I am a product of the 90s, and this story will connect with a lot of the 90s kids. Noor, Bachu, and the other characters of the book are people I know. There is a bit of me in these kids too and I felt that this is a book with a big heart, so it deserves to be read.