Quite true to its blurb, A Smattering of Darkness is a collection of short stories of varying lengths encapsulating the gray shades of the human psyche. It has short stories addressing some very shady aspects of the human mind. A world full of violence, abusive behaviors, gender issues, selfishness, and how people see everything else, except another human being in front of them, as the most important thing in the world.
Surprisingly, while she does not mention it, there is a lot of paranormal element that looms large in Alisha “Priti” Kirpalani‘s work, ‘The Encounter’ touching that sphere.
The sinister shadow of the monster within each mortal has been highlighted well with her pen. ‘Spirits’ is a fantastic example of that.
Alisha is good with wordplay and she is also successful in many spots in placing before us the exact feeling the protagonist might be going through, those hidden thoughts a person in that situation might actually have, and some of these instances had me by surprise, a pleasant one, at her ability to capture that instance well. Yet, and I don’t want to come across as rude or distasteful, but there were several other places, where some phrases which represented thoughts felt as if the writer had to struggle with being able to express them finely, they left me wanting in the department of linguistic expression.
There was something that had me a somewhat vexed with the content. The ends were always a twist, nothing at all how you would see the stories go. Sometimes I felt that some stories were begun right, nurtured in infancy, wanting to deliver some message to the reader, but then abandoned as they grew, hurriedly closed shut with a weird, even inexplicable ending, because the writer simply felt like playing a twist in her whim, just to make them appear quirky, and not because it was so needed. I might be wrong, everyone can have a different take, but this is what I felt. One of the stories, ‘Seven’, truly impressed me, the way it was sketched, like a live journal of a sufferer of the plight of the protagonist. The ending was undeniably nice, perhaps the rare positive one, but it didn’t match the realism that was so evocatively penned in the rest of the paragraphs.
The stories had me sad and they were even heavy to hold (and for this very reason I went slow with them, reading one, and the some time later), with a somewhat repetitive pattern of pukish descriptions, and since some entered no conclusive end except the ones that did, I was left with an unhappy feeling.
Except for the very end. The shortest ones were the best. To quote one from it,
“She broke his marriage, moved into his home. Faith foretold that history does repeat. He found another one who swept him off his feet.”
All in all, this is a fairly good debut, and I think the writer should not be missed for all the splashes of brilliance she makes, they are worth the take.
I received an E-copy of this anthology, A Smattering of Darkness in exchange for a fair and honest review.