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Using fiction to nudge and introspect on relevant issues such as bodyimage and mental health- A review of debut author Deepa A Agarwal’s book ‘The Hangover of Choices’

A review of debut author Deepa A Agarwal’s book ‘The Hangover of Choices’

A gripping tale, The Hangover of Choices is a balanced blend of fiction and philosophy. It surfaces issues that are important to our times but not given adequate attention; body image, the need for external validation, a dissociation with one’s sexuality, stigmas attached to mental health and the body-mind connection.

In the short span of its publication in mid-2021, the author has already made it to the top 50 influential authors list, which features esteemedpeople such as IndraNooyi and Amitav Ghosh.Wanting to understand the whys of the book striking a chord with its readers, we did a deep dive into the book and its reviews.

A page-turner, the book is the story of Nidhi Verma, a woman in her mid-30’s, who finds herself on the deathbed under completely unexpected circumstances. What starts off as an evening filled with the promise of a fun party, soon turns into a nightmare when Nidhi and her friend Ziya, meet with a fatal accident. Though she is unharmed by the accident itself, Nidhi is shocked to realize that she is being rushed to a hospital.How did she end up here, is the burning question of the protagonist.

And now comes the twist-  her unconscious mind, whose existence Nidhi had refused to acknowledge, begins to make its presence felt. In this space between the wake and dead lie many answers: Her entire life comes up as flashbacks in the form of unfiltered memories, which she is forced to watch from a distance. Watching her life play out as a movie, Nidhi sees herself from the viewer’s perspective for the first time.

From this detached position, she realizes that everything that she had ever done in her life was to please other people to find their acceptance. And in doing this, she had forgotten what she truly believed in. Facing her now are confrontations; a dissociation with sexuality, a low self-image, denial of mental health issues, the perceived need for outer success and many more. The question remains- Will she make it alive to now live differently?

A refreshing plotline that pulls you in right from the first page, one finds resonance with the prime characters of Nidhi and Ziya, making the book highly relatable.The author has not only delivered some power-packed lessons but has managed to surface taboo topics smoothly. These are some common themes shared by readers. The female bonds, with its undertones, as it is a highly underplayed and under-appreciated aspect of a woman’s life has also been handled deftly.

On the writing style, readers have experienced it as a light yet intensely thought-provoking read, a gentle nudge towards self-reflection, lucid writing, a crisp and deep-read. It also elegantly presents‘behind the scenes’ of therapy and counselling and deftly addresses the stigmas attached to mental health concerns.

It’s a book that stays with you long after you have turned the last page!

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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