A Deconstructed Heart by Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed: thoughtful and slightly surreal

deconstructedThere are two central characters in A Deconstructured Heart by Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed – Mirza and Amal. Mirza is a college professor in his fifties whose unsatisfactory marriage comes to an abrupt end when one morning his wife announces she’s leaving him. Mirza is shocked, to say the least, but is more concerned about who’ll feed the cat to start with. Unable to face the house without his wife in it, he moves into a tent-cum-shelter (which doesn’t need planning permission) in the garden where he carries on teaching duties and accepts visitors. And this is where Amal enters. She is Mirza’s niece and as the only family member nearby she has to take time out from university to see if she can sort her uncle out. She comes to live in the house for a while to keep an eye on things. Rehan, one of Mirza’s students, is there to help too. It seems a relationship might develop between the two young people.

So far action has all been very realistic if a little eccentric on Mirza’s part. Then there’s a hint of the paranormal when the ghost of one of Mirza’s old teachers comes along to debate with his ex-student and play chess with him. However, somehow, given the slightly surreal feel to this novella, it seems acceptable. Life is rather more mundane for Amal and she perhaps faces more hardship than her uncle.

Both Mirza and Amal have to make adjustments. They both face an element of deconstruction in these new situations they find themselves in – deconstruction in the form of both dismantling and analysing what has hitherto been the norm. The new situation is disruptive and difficult for them both but it resolves itself. However, there’s no magic wand, no happy ever after. As in real life, the characters muddle through and find some sort of reason for what’s happening to them.

The novel is sedate and thoughtful. It’s well written with touches of dry and wry humour. It’s entertaining and leaves you thinking. It also provides an interesting insight into Indian culture with the importance it gives to family and duty. Very well worth reading.

The book is well presented and as you can see, has a very effective and eye-catching cover. The book is a very professional product.