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Published on: 08/15/15 4:41 PM

Book review: Leaving Home with Half a Fridge

Life after divorce

Part primer, part memoir, this book takes readers down the post-breakup road.

Memoirs are tricky to write. Beyond a certain point, your memories might just not be the stuff of interest, leave alone inspiration to readers. What you reveal, what you veil, what you gloss over, what you decide to delve deep into, all of it is extremely subjective and not the easiest of tasks to undertake. However, debutante author Arathi Menon ticks all the right boxes with her Leaving Home With Half A Fridge.

This is a divorce memoir, so clearly the time has come to pass when we need books like this one to help us traverse tricky relationship paths. Writing in an assured style, pretty much like she’s having a series of extended conversations with the reader, Menon tells us of her adventures after she leaves a five-year-old marriage, without quite leaving the man she refers to throughout the book as the Ex.

The Ex, as a matter of fact, lives close by and is on cordial enough terms to occasionally invite her out to jazz concerts or just to watch a spectacular sunset with him. Also, since it was a mutual consent divorce, the drama is kept to the minimum. In other words, the Ex is still very much part of Menon’s life and we get the impression that that is how she wants it, despite the fact that her emotions regarding the man who she categorically states brought about the demise of the marriage is rather ambivalent.

Menon strives for and reaches just the right note; her narrative is a confiding one, leavened with much self-deprecating humour wherein she takes potshots at herself cheerfully. If she does turn sad and reflective — but never maudlin — at times, she quickly attempts to shake off the mood rather in the fashion of a puppy shaking water off its fur. What Menon unambiguously does is hold out hope for those like her who have left a place of deep unhappiness and are now single-mindedly involved in the pursuit of happiness.

There is no blithe recital of the delights of being a singleton; mixed in there is the pain of someone who feels she could not make a marriage work. There is grief, trauma, there are tears galore; Menon actually buys a box of hankies to cope with the last emotion. There is the occasional bout with depression. There is also the suggestion that she is still a work in progress as regards a full and complete recovery, but Menon’s confidence come shining through.

Menon’s focus, of course, is the newly divorced or the about to be divorced but in the chapter dealing with the balance sheet of wishes and wants, she advises letting go, learning not to sweat the small stuff, loosening up, just chilling. And that’s advice all of us — single, married or divorced — could well use. As for the divorcee’s Twelve Step Tango which is the concluding section of the memoir, that’s advice dished out with a flourish!

Quite the most heartwarming thing is that Menon refuses to vilify or paint the Ex more black than he needs to be but yes, he does need to be, she says, given that he brought the marriage to its end. While her residual anger shows through at times, and while she hasn’t yet reached the stage of shrugging and saying que sera sera, she tells us that in case of an emergency, he will be there for her.

Under these circumstances, she declines to discuss the actual marriage or why it broke up in any detail, focusing instead on the less than pleasant path the divorced person is suddenly pushed onto. If some of the advice offered sounds trite, well, it worked for Menon and may well work for others in the same situation.

So. An eye-catching jacket, an eye-catching title, breezy chapters and a direct style that cannot but appeal: Menon’s book is a winner. A handbook on how to survive divorce. That’s  just what  Leaving Home With  Half  A  Fridge  reads  like.

This ran in THE HINDU`S LITERARY REVIEW of 15 Aug 2015.

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Sheila Kumar • August 15, 2015

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