There are books that entrap readers—they can’t put them down until they have read them cover to cover. Those books don’t allow readers to do anything else but read because they must know what happens next. This was no such book. No, it was great in a different manner. Plot was not what drove the book, so I felt in no way compelled to finish it in one shot, even though it’s short enough for that. What mattered was the experience of the characters and how they each dealt with the grief of losing someone they loved to suicide. There were so many questions and trying to grapple with all the “why”s in itself was a roller coaster ride with the highs and the lows, that Kite especially, experienced.
During the summer of her GCSEs Kite’s world falls apart. Her best friend, Dawn, commits suicide after a long struggle with feeling under pressure to achieve. Kite’s dad takes her to the Lake District, to give her time and space to grieve. In London Kite is a confident girl, at home in the noisy, bustling city, but in the countryside she feels vulnerable and disorientated. Kite senses Dawn’s spirit around her and is consumed by powerful, confusing emotions – anger, guilt, sadness and frustration, all of which are locked inside. It’s not until she meets local boy, Garth, that Kite begins to open up – talking to a stranger is easier somehow. Kite deeply misses her friend and would do anything to speak to Dawn just once more, to understand why… Otherwise how can she ever say goodbye? A potent story about grief, friendship, acceptance and making your heart whole again.
Kite Spirit is a book that mercilessly tugs at the heart strings. It is for that reason that I broke it down in chunks as I read. Sometimes I had to put it down to think. At other times I had to put it down to collect myself and dry the tears that wouldn’t stop falling. Even though the narrative is in third person and we don’t get to see what’s going on inside Kite’s head, we glimpse the pain in the things she says, her actions and also her dreams. Still, as Kite grappled with her loss, her emotions written in the pages became painfully real. To me, there’s no deeper way to connect with a character. When a book becomes so real to readers who haven’t gone through the same experience, that’s when it comes alive. That is the magic of books.
Personally, I don’t usually like the style of writing Brahmachari adopted very much. Sentences were relatively short and clipped with little variation, so the narrative didn’t flow consistently for me. But in this case it was effective because the resultant breaks in reading, however slight, made me pause and think more than usual while reading. I prefer to lose myself in a story. Suicide is a heavy topic though, so reflecting on my own feelings and responses actually was a good thing. Fiction after all, has a way of holding up a mirror to our reality, even as many of us escape into it to visit another world.