Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Caretaker - Book Review

The Caretaker
By A. X. Ahmad
Review By Ila Garg

A.X. Ahmad’s ‘The Caretaker’ has been published by Harper Collins. So one can easily trust this book as a quality product, both in terms of editing as well as paper quality. Printing is of a good quality too. I stared at the book for about 15 minutes before I began reading, quite impressed by its outer beauty.

By the time I reached the middle of this book, my heart was throbbing. This is therefore, a truly amazing suspense thriller novel which takes you into its realms to provide you with an unparalleled sensory experience.

This 294 page book, ‘The Caretaker’ by A. X. Ahmad, belongs to the genre of suspense and thriller. I love fast-paced thrillers with plot twists and mysteries or questions that drive the novel and keep the interest intact, but I find that most of those types of books are light on character development, beautiful prose, etc. On the other hand, I find that most literary novels can be a bit too slow and thus boring and often monotonous.

A.X. Ahmad’s book is one of the few books I can think of that combines the best of both worlds. It’s a fast-paced, exciting, and fun page-turner. I read the whole thing from cover to cover, at one point holding the book with one hand and reading while brewing a cup of coffee for myself. It held my undaunted attention as it’s written beautifully, with gorgeous descriptions and insightful social commentary sprinkled throughout. In that sense, A.X. Ahmad’s ‘The Caretaker’ does not disappoint as a suspense novel.

The cover page is simple, not distracting. Blurb is to the point and precise, hinting at the story line and arousing reader’s interest. I am very much content with this debut novel.

The protagonist and flawed hero is Ranjit Singh, a disgraced Sikh former army captain now living as an undocumented worker struggling to make ends meet as a landscaper on Martha's Vineyard. Things are not going well but begin to look up a bit when he is offered the opportunity to work as caretaker during the off season for a famous senator and a list of other well off folk looking for someone to watch over their summer homes. But then in desperation he makes a bad choice and what follows is a well written and good standard thriller as he tries to figure out and resolve the mess he find himself and his family entangled in. 

Besides Ranjit Singh there are a number of other immigrant characters in Ahmad’s novel, including the Brazilian ferry operators and a particularly wise and helpful Arab shopkeeper who did his bit in helping Ranjit too. The various immigrant characters in ‘The Caretaker’ are clearly aware of their differences, and as many of them are in the United States illegally they are forced to acknowledge the precariousness of their position.

In a book that on the whole is more interested in its potboiler suspense plot than in making complex sociological points about race, Ahmad manages to say quite a lot about the status of immigrants in the version of America he is creating in ‘The Caretaker.’

The things I most enjoyed in this story were the glimpses into Ranjit's Sikh religion and lifestyle, life as an undocumented immigrant trying to fit in - especially in the post 9/11 world, the under-the-average-American's-radar look at relations between India and Pakistan and the political power brokering scene. I loved Ranjit's relationship with his daughter too.

I must say the author is highly intellectual and has written an intelligent piece of writing. The second half took me by surprise. The author has marvellously woven a brilliant climax into the story that keeps the readers glued till the very end.  The characters are well chosen and described. Overall it’s a very challenging plot.

This is a very well-written and page-turning thriller, one of the best kinds of its genre. I enjoyed it thoroughly. A gripping tale of hidden histories, political intrigue and dangerous attractions, A. X. Ahmad's The Caretaker introduces a new hero for our times: an immigrant caught between two worlds and a man caught between two loves.

I feel the breath-taking end will keep the readers engaged. Cheers to the author for penning down such a challenging plot.

Ratings: 4/5

This (Unbiased) book review is a part of "Indiblogger and Harper Collins Get Published Opportunity".