In the best writing, what goes unsaid is often as important as what gets said, and there’s a lot left unsaid in Mona Arshi’s debut novel Somebody Loves You; in fact, in response to her mother’s mental illness, the main character, Ruby, stops speaking altogether. What follows is a fragmentary, non-linear coming of age story told through short, poetic vignettes recounted through Ruby’s narrative voice. These recollections give us glimpses of her world while also covering themes such as class, race, sisterhood, family, mental illness, and love. It’s a clever conceit, that we as readers are allowed to read Ruby’s words while those around her never hear them, and her voice is distinctive and strange enough to justify its place on the page.
Arshi is a published poet, and it shows: her prose is pared to the bone, and she has a keen eye for detail, as well as a knack for memorable imagery. What Arshi doesn’t quite have yet is a mastery of storytelling; the fragmentary structure works well as a cumulative representation of time passing, but the disparate strands of Somebody Loves You don’t cohere into a satisfying whole. A strong debut that never quite soars.
Somebody Loves You, Mona Arshi (And Other Stories)
Price: £11.99. Info: here
words JOSHUA REES
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