I was provided with a digital advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ramya has just been laid off from her office job. Approaching fifty, she reflects on the steps that have taken her from a privileged childhood in India to scraping by in Canada, depressed and alone. Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? While Ramya’s life’s journey has its low points, she also takes us through her joys and adventures, and the novel ends on a cautiously optimistic note.
Ramya tells her story through a box of mementos, each one representing an important person or memory in her life. While this premise seems promising at first, I found that the objects in the box act as scaffolding, helpful for providing structure while writing, but unnecessary in the final draft. This book could easily have told the same story without relying on the “treasure” idea. Additionally, the title Ramya’s Treasure, while apt, is not very compelling.
Parts of the story are told in the present tense, while others are in the past tense. This does have a functional purpose for the narrative, but the execution comes across as a bit stilted. Writing in present tense can be a tricky business, and Reddy doesn’t always pull it off.
The book has a slow start, but gains steam quickly and maintains momentum through the end. This is in part due to how the structure loosens up as it goes along, not quite as restricted to the object-story premise as in the beginning. The exposition at the beginning snowballs and reading becomes easier as more puzzle pieces connect.
Reddy’s characterization of Ramya is a strong point in his writing. Authors of a different gender from the characters they write can sometimes make mistakes, but Ramya is a believable woman, and beyond that, a complex, well-rounded character. The depiction of depression is realistic and her background perfectly establishes how she has arrived to this point in her life.
On the other hand, there is a bit too much of “write what you know” in this novel. To a certain extent, I think that writing characters similar to oneself can be a good thing. Reddy’s portrayal of the immigrant experience clearly draws on his own life in a way that enriches the story. However, I’m always skeptical of a writer writing a writer character. It can be done well, but very often, including here, it comes across as navel-gazing.
As an editorial aside, I think that some sentences in this book have more commas in them than necessary.
Ramya’s Treasure has good bones. Still, it’s apparent that this is a debut novel, and Reddy’s previous publications have been short stories. There is an echo of the short story in the way this book is structured, and I wish that Reddy had reworked it a bit more to fit the novel format. I think that he has a lot of potential as a writer. Certain passages sucked me in. Still, he also has room for improvement. If he publishes another novel, I will keep an eye out for it because I want to see where he goes from here.
Ramya’s Treasure will be released on September 1st. If this review intrigued you, check it out! You can buy or pre-order it here.
Rating: 3/5 stars.
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