By Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Modern History Press
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
April 2018 Fiction
ISBN 9781615993543 (ePub, PDF, Kindle, ebook) $5.35
ISBN 9781615993529 (softcover, acid-free paper) $21.95
ISBN 9781615993536 (hardcover, acid-free paper) $30.09
Caught by surprise, reading about a young lady living and working in New Delhi, I wondered why was Louisiana Catch the title. This became clear later when Ahana visited New Orleans to be with family and to work. I was glad to become reacquainted with New Orleans through Ahana’s eyes. Through the narrative, I came to know and understand Ahana. I didn’t always agree with Ahana, yet, I always liked her. Ahana comes from a very privileged family, yet that is not enough to protect her from marrying an abusive man, and attracting another man, who at first, she regards as a friend from an online therapy group.
The subject is very timely with all the “Me Too” today in the news and everyday comes someone new with new accusations. Every day we see people who we thought we respected, arrested and going to jail. Men with money and power have always been keen to use their power to control the women in their professional and personal lives. This book is about women and the power we wield when we stand up for what is right and help others. It is about human rights and also about losing people we love, suffering and finding love.
Ahana is likeable and a bit naïve. Broken, from a first abusive marriage, she allows herself to fall into paranoia, wondering if he is in touch with her ex-husband and that’s how he knows so much about her. At first, she takes his friendship as a gift and the more he demands and pounds at her emotionally, the more she makes excuses for him, and the more she cajoles him and becomes afraid to confront him, suspicious he may be following her. What woman who has escaped abusive relationships doesn’t know this feeling? Here, I see and say, “me too,” having gone though an abusive marriage myself. And like the “me too” movement shows, when we open ourselves up to the truth, we can finally let go of our fears and our history.
I think the part of Ahana that needs healing is so wound up and traumatized that she is blind when she meets Jay at an online therapy group for members who have recently lost a parent, after her mother suddenly passes away. She simply takes Jay at his word, and accepts him for who he says he is, someone too who has suffered through a mother’s loss. Every time Ahana asks Jay about himself, no matter how simple, for example, is he dating or where he lives he rebukes her as to why, as his best friend, she is hassling him which results in her feeling guilty and unworthy. Ahana makes excuses for what he says and why, and centers the blame on herself. I assume that this is where the cycle of abuse comes in, and Ahana is unable to see that she is repeating history by letting Jay speak to her in ways that demean her.
When her household cook and her cousin point out the inconsistencies in Jay’s behavior and more importantly, the negative effects on her, at first she is not ready to listen. Eventually she gets to the point where she clearly sees his game but by this time, she is fearful and paranoid that perhaps Jay knows her husband and has learned about her from him.
At one point I wanted to yell at her, “Ahana, why are you giving this Jay guy so much importance in your life and why don’t you just cut him out?” At that point I totally identified with Ahana’s cousin, Naina. And why wouldn’t I, since Naina is a mental health professional like myself.
Throughout the novel, Ahana is fighting her demons and has left a high paying position to coordinate a women’s conference to raise awareness about violence and abuse of women, which is part of how she overcomes her own trauma. The other part of how she overcomes her trauma is through her relationship with Rohan Brady, who Ahana must work with on the conference, called NO EXCUSE. I’m not sure how cell phone service works in India, however I do have an online poetry friend in India who has called me occasionally and he assures me when he calls me I don’t pay, and I never have!
At one point, early on in the communication between Ahana and Rohan, when Ahana is still in New Delhi, Rohan calls Ahana, and Ahana says she has to hang up because she doesn’t want to pay international fees. There were also a few typos I hope they fixed in the final version.
Ahana has misjudged Rohan as misogynist because of his online persona. As for Jay, and his abusive and baiting behavior, it is well past the middle of the book when she finally begins to see through his gameplay, and after everyone around her and even two women in her online therapy group have warned her repeatedly about him. Ahana finally asks her cousin’s husband for help and since he is a police officer, it comes to light that Jay has criminal history.
In all, the novel is very personal and readable, a quick reader for me, once I got into the details. I was also glad that there was a list of characters in the beginning for review since Indian names are foreign to me, this list made it easy to follow the characters in the beginning. I recommend this novel, to women especially, as this is book is about women and love, violence towards woman and clearly makes the point – that all violence and verbal abuse is always unacceptable. The other important insight is to always tell and not keep abuse a secret. This step is by far, the most important in overcoming tendency to allow abusers or toxic people into your life. Ahana makes this point very clearly in her work.