Us humans are imperfect beings and it is this very imperfection that this book perfectly embraces with wide open arms, wider than the expanses of this probable universe. A lot of the media today focuses on churning “the perfect life with perfect personalities” stories - be it the happily ever after love story, rags to riches success story, a political crime perfectly solved at the end of the day story, so on and so forth. There is a formulaic approach in storytelling, isnt it?. ‘If I had to tell it again’ breaks the shackles of this formula and bares to the reader a raw, no frills, compelling memoir written by a daughter (who is the the author herself) about the memories she has of the relationship with her father post his much awaited death.
This book takes one through a poignant recollection of memories strung one by one on the thread of the shared lives of the father- daughter duo. It is often forgotten that inheritance can bring with it sometimes negative traits, habits and illnesses as well. So what does one do if a lot of these are passed along the lineage? Do we ever talk about these? Hell no! How can we? Aren’t our parents equivalent to Gods on earth? The author makes a bold move by posing questions about her upbringing, questions her father’s parenting and ideologies. The author brings about an honest conversation not just between father-daughter but how it slowly matures into a relationship between two adults through this book. It beautifully captures the evolving parent - child relationship and the multitude of struggles that dot this evolution.
The book derives majority of the strength from its extremely real, to the point of being vulnerable, characterization of SGM, G and their family members. SGM who was a hardcore idealist, generous neighbour and a friend to one and all, who believed in ‘tough’ parenting to the extent of beating up his daughters profusely and practically never being there to protect them through difficult times even while the daughter suffered sexual abuse. SGM was a victim to depression and eventually alcoholism and all he ever wanted was to first- revel in his daughter’s fame and success and second - be freed from living the treacherous life that he was leading. G, the author herself, through introducing us to her father begins to show traces of the very characteristics she had begun to describe as her father’s, only difference being she chose to work on it and overcome it. Entire book is largely a dialogue between the duo and it truly reveals the struggles of a growing teenager having had to deal with an alcoholic and depressed father. The reader can very well relate to the characters who are constantly torn apart between their love and anger for each other,. An excerpt below elegantly captures this
‘ Which father should i have listened to? The one who was spiralling into addiction or the one who needed alcohol to make it through one more night, one more day’
This book equally represents the struggles of mental illness juxtaposing two kinds of sufferers in the way of the father and the daughter. It takes painful amounts of time to firstly identify, then diagnose and overcome mental illness. One can only feel incessant amounts of sadness, anxiety, emptiness and aimlessness and more often this is something individuals live with for years together until they finally have a label to it. The initial period of going through something so confusing and misinterpretation of what one goes through is one of the toughest period. This is addressed in the book in a relatable manner almost mirroring someone who may read it undergoing a similar circumstance in their lives. The journey to recovery is another feat in itself, seldom discussed in everyday coffee conversations. This book definitely provides reassurance to someone who is in a similar mindspace.
To sum it up this is a book with a fresh breath of air this winter. Yes it is dark, raw and emotional but it’s high time we embrace that side of humanity too. The author also puts forth the mental narrative delicately tiptoeing around the primary narrative of the father- daughter relationship. It is a slice of life which will resonate with millions of readers.