Author- Sowmya Rajendran
Rating- 4 stars
Ashwathy and the Boot of God is a fast-paced, gripping mystery book that I finished in one sitting.
With a curious beginning, which involves an abandoned boot like, the story could have gone anywhere. The fact that despite thinking it might belong on a dead body,14 year old Ashwathy pokes around, and is piqued enough to investigate it when it lands up in their cowshed, supposedly carried in from a place where the cow would not have been able to enter when she came back from grazing, is enough to tell us that our protagonist is no ordinary girl. She’s smart, curious, intelligent enough to figure things out, and as we find out, resourceful enough to get to the bottom of things.
These things include the fact that the boot belongs to God. But this God doesn’t reside in the temple, and require puja and flowers. This God is but a sparkly-eyed, fashionably attired God who often changes her hairstyle and decides to go on dates with interesting people. Yes, you read that right. God here, is not the default male, but a woman. And a feisty woman, mind you.
We learn from God, that there is a backstory that Ashwathy needs to help with. Sreeja, a married woman in the neighbourhood, was said to have committed suicide, having recently been diagnosed with cancer. Sreeja, however, had complained to God that she had been murdered, and asked for her help. God wants Ashwathy’s help in solving the case. So how does Ashwathy rise to the occasion? What does she do to find out what really happened? It is a quick, breathtaking read to find out.
This book gives us a work of fiction rooted in small town Kerala, a town within daily commuting distance of a major city, with very believable, very Indian characters. Described briefly, each character is real, believable, and unique. And that is no mean feat. Then there is the demolition of stereotypes done in the author’s trademark humour (I loved the way she put things). God is a She, who resents the idea of a prayer-and-coconut-breaking-routine. Ashwathy is an atheist, even if she is recruited by God, and she is encouraged in her beliefs by her father who dreams big for his daughter despite social pressure to go the other way. One can only imagine the possibilities. And then there is that little thing about Ashwathy confronting a sexually abusive teacher at school. Very impressive.
The humour in this book cuts the serious scenes with ease, and the quirky details about God lighten up the pages. It is definitely apt for the target age group. Sowmya also touches upon various aspects of social life like dowry, not letting a girl study, marriage being forced on someone, a lecherous teacher and how even mothers are sometimes reluctant to let their girls do things. Ashwathy managed to win my heart with her head strong-ness, practical approach and logical reasoning. God, in her feminine form, is shown to have a wonderful sense of humour and manages to pass on such lovely nuggets of wisdom. This book breaks stereotypes, but at its heart, is a gripping mystery which keeps you hooked until the last page.