Finally, a prose piece worthy of being added to an anthology. Kamal’s work is well-written and haunting, a good piece of literature amongst all the other mediocre entries. Focusing on a complex, intricate topic – the death of a child – and doing justice to it is a feat, and for once it has actually been pulled off.
Our protagonist, a mother of a young boy, is all set to host her son’s fifth birthday, but the complicated past of losing her first born to another birthday party ten years back keeps dragging her away from the present. Told in quick, fluid shifts between past and present, Kamal, who herself is the mother of three kids, has written this story with just the right amount of emotions to keep you invested without making you restless or bored with heartbreak. And even though I don’t necessarily believe that one has to live through an experience in order to write about it – one doesn’t need to be a mother in order to be able to write about a mother’s love - the excellence of expression shown through Kamal’s words are undeniable.
The party, a two hour affair, are our heroine’s husband’s ideas. He’s determined to make a new life after the death of their first child, and our heroine’s relationship with her husband is an important part of the story, in a surprising turn of narrative that I liked. Usually stories about the death of a child, especially written from the point of view of the mother, seem to completely ignore the existence of the father.
He’d held her to a promise she’d forgotten which was that she was his wife first and then a mother, that marriage came before children, that she had to allow him a second chance at parenthood even if it was a second chance neither he nor she had asked for.
At such a short length, I’m always surprised when short stories manage to resonate so much, but Soniah Kamal is clearly an author to look out for. I’m glad to hear she already has a novel published, which means there’s good literature that I can now add to my TBR list. Definitely recommended.