A teacher asked me a question; and I opened my mouth as a sort of formality but closed it softly; knowing with perfect certainty that nothing would ever come out again.
Ruby gives up talking at a young age. Her mother isn’t always there to notice; she comes and goes and goes and comes; until; one day; she doesn’t. Silence becomes Ruby’s refuge; sheltering her from the weather of her mother’s mental illness and a pressurized suburban atmosphere.
Plangent; deft; and sparkling with wry humour; Somebody Loves You is a moving exploration of how we choose or refuse to tell the stories that shape us.
Poet and former human rights lawyer Arshi (Dear Big Gods) makes her fiction debut with a delicate and enveloping portrayal of a British Indian family coping with a mother's depression. "Everything worth saying can be written on your fingernail," believes Ruby, the narrator, who, at 11, rarely speaks. Her older sister, Rania, is a talker, a rebel, and an artist. Their father is unassuming and kind, and their mother, who feels most alive while gardening, sleeps her way through Britain's winters. Ruby and Rania, while starkly contrasting, provide each other the support their mother cannot, especially when she's recovering at a psychiatric hospital. Adults project their own beliefs onto the silent Ruby some distrust her, while others, such as a teacher, seek to convert her to Christianity. However, as Ruby moves from primary to secondary school, her devilish tenacity takes root. The chapters, like Ruby, are concise, never rambling, but they contain startling depth. With piercing lines such as, "The day my sister tried to drag the baby fox into our house was the same day my mother had her first mental breakdown," Arshi opens the door into Ruby's dysfunctional but authentic family. Each scene is packed with emotion and memory, and it's all carried by the diction and imagery of a poem. It adds up to a beautiful whole.