What do you do when the person who defines you forgets you?
It’s a question posed by Avni Doshi‘s excellent novel, Burnt Sugar.
Tara’s genuine love, frequent neglect and sporadic whims have shaped her daughter, Antara. Even as an adult, everything Antara does is in some way a response to her mother. So when Tara is diagnosed with Alzheimers Antara is set somewhat adrift. Their loving, competitive, fiercely antagonistic relationship is thrown all out of whack. The rules have changed so dramatically Antara can’t even figure out how to break them.
This book is a deeply fascinating character study and an exploration of how tenderness and rage can be so easily intertwined within mother-daughter relationships. It explores how we try to find our footing when a parent leaves us (mentally or physically) before we’ve had a chance to work out the deep rooted conflicts we’ve had with them. And it’s an acknowledgement that, even when we rebel, we can’t really escape the influence of the parent who raised us.
None of the characters in this book are exactly “good.” But they’re not bad either. They’re just heartbreakingly human.