Lora, Alex and I discuss the concluding section of Gurjinder Basran’s debut novel (page 197 to the end), and how pleased we were with the perhaps unexpected way things turned out for our heroine, Meena, and her family.
Laurie: Hello! So, Part 3 of Gurjinder Basran’s Everything Was Good-Bye…
Lora: I bawled my eyes out.
Alex: Seriously? You cried? I had goosebumps and was thrilled at the ending she chose. Maybe I was a bit watery eyed…
Lora: I did. I couldn’t help it. When Meena lost Liam after they had finally settled down, the tears started flowing.
Laurie: I was more sad at the scenes with Leena. I couldn’t help but feel that Liam, true to character, behaved like a high-school student. Sunny, too. But I did definitely appreciate Basran choosing to go that route.
Alex: What happened was a sad mess.
Lora: That it was. Basran makes an interesting comment in the Q&A at the end of the book about how Sunny and his overbearing sense of entitlement is the result of his upbringing.
Alex: Oh, absolutely. You can see it a mile off.
Laurie: I can see that to a certain extent, but so many people overcome their upbringing and the shortcomings thereof and move on. Sunny obviously didn’t.
Alex: Spoilt brat syndrome! He also didn’t seem to have much substance. Come to think about it, neither did Liam.
Laurie: Environment vs. genetics, nature vs. nurture?
Lora: I think other people overcome because their circumstances force them to.
Laurie: Yes, but others don’t, and Sunny didn’t, and I think he would have had to have risen above his circumstances.
Lora: He never had to. Everyone always accepted him.
Laurie: He has no internal strength of character. Neither did Liam, ultimately.
Alex: They didn’t seem as complex as Kal.
Laurie: Kal was the much more rounded character — thinking of others, not just himself.
Alex: And he accepted the situation for what it was, without having the ends tied up. He accepted what Meena could give him, which is something nobody else did in the whole book.
Laurie: The loose-ends things was an intriguing way for Basran to go. I like that she did that.
Alex: Me, too. And finally Meena is just being herself. It was thought-provoking and heartfelt, and by the second section the story really carried me away with it. And even if grief is still a part of that. Someone has accepted her, and her mum finally came around!!!!
Lora: I love the part with Kal at the end. Where she tells him to wait, and he says he always has.
Alex: Oh, now you’re going to set me off…. And when Leena says “Is he going to be my daddy?”
Laurie: It was interesting to see the development of the writing in the book. Did you feel that too?
Alex: Absolutely. The flow continued to improve, the narrative and plot line were enthralling…
Laurie: And she didn’t take one of the expected routes, I think, which might have been to have Sunny kill Meena.
Alex: Do you think he meant to kill Liam or just hurt him?
Laurie: Just hurt him.
Lora: It seemed like blind rage. But he literally just finished saying he’d kill him. Sooo that probably didn’t help his case.
Laurie: I don’t think there was premeditation or anything, just built-up anger at Meena having betrayed him and Liam having his toy, so to speak, his belonging.
Lora: Yeah, he really was like a kid with a toy.
Alex: A toy that had been taken away…
Laurie: It was interesting to see Sunny’s behaviour re his and Meena’s possessions. How meticulous he was about splitting them up. Why? Was it to maintain contact? To assert control?
Lora: That was strange. I would have expected him to want it all.
Alex: It was as if he was going to change her mind….
Laurie: Hmm. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
Alex: Sort of “You’re right…dividing everything is so painful maybe we should stay together.” I think it’s realistic, though. I think that people do think like that when they’re breaking up. I deliberately, pointlessly, divided up a pair of egg cups as if thinking, “If I have to eat from one of these and remember you, you will too!”
Lora: Thinking about it now, it seems like it was just another way for him to maintain control.
Laurie: It was interesting to see the stalking going on, and him letting the movers in. Control freak.
Lora: SO scary.
Laurie: Which is why I thought he might kill her. After all, he’d already beaten her up at least twice, including when he knew she was pregnant. And his upbringing is just an excuse.
Lora: And that takes a disgusting human being.
Alex: He’s the worst kind of human. Is it wrong that I’m glad Kal is his cousin and that that’ll drive Sunny bonkers?
Lora: Meena’s mom had a point, though. Imagine explaining that whole situation to Leena when she’s older?
Laurie: Kids are adaptable, plus she loves him. And he’s been playing the father role for years. He is the good guy.
Lora: I do think he’d make a great dad.
Alex: Meena just has to be the one to decide if she loves him or not.
Laurie: Kids are smart. She’ll figure out soon enough that Kal and Mummy are spending time in the bedroom together. Duh.
Lora: Haha. I think she has already in some way — “Is he going to be my daddy?”
Alex: Exactly. He’ll always be in their life in some capacity anyway.
Lora: So were you both satisfied with the ending?
Laurie: I’m happy it wasn’t classic Hollywood with a kiss and embrace and happily ever after. It left some questions. And it wasn’t Sunny killing Meena, which would have been more predictable, although very timely, given the news these days.
Alex: Absolutely. I liked the feeling of it. The worst was over, there was still work to do together, but I liked that. It feels real.
Lora: I was so tired when I was reading, I thought it ended on her prayer in the cemetery. Then I saw the last chapter — it was like a little gift!
Alex: I was happy the mom was forced to rethink the rigidity of her opinions. The death superseded everything else, and she became a mother again. I was wondering how far she would go, how far she would push her kids away and was relieved she came through in the end.
Laurie: The scene with Harj was interesting in that context. It took death and such an extreme situation to bring about a change. And the mother was still apologizing for Meena to others.
Alex: Didn’t it feel like Harj just came back with NO FUSS when they were mourning? I was expecting a bit more of a reconciliation, but it was just, “There was Harj.”
Laurie: But she came back for Meena. And there wasn’t tons of detail conveyed at that point, so it felt OK to me.
Lora: I was also hoping for more reconciliation, but I don’t know if it would have felt authentic. I was glad Meena’s mom came around.
Alex: There was no question when it came down to it — it makes their bond seem stronger than they thought.
Lora: But I was also really glad when Meena confronted her and told her she didn’t want to be like her and do the crying-widow-on-display bit.
Laurie: That honesty was important in their relationship: What they feel for each other and what is true between them is more important than what other people think. I’m happy to have read a book with an interesting look at culture and assimilation, and also love and relationships. And to have seen how Basran found her pace and rhythm as the book went on. We’ll explore some of those same themes in our next book club pick, The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen. Till then!
Alex: Me, too. Cheers!