Set in modern India in a dimension where time and space are fluid, Monica Bhide’s The Soul Catcher, a novel in stories, is a mosaic narrative about destiny, grief, loss, faith, love, and sisterhood.
It takes us on a magical journey that begins with an unspeakable tragedy, and concludes with a surprising resolution. It chronicles the life of Yamini Goins — the Soul Catcher — a woman who transports souls from one body to another to keep people alive. In Yamini’s India, one set in harsh realities and far removed from tourist traps and movie cliches, anguish and death battle second opportunities and powerful prayers in an eternal dance in which magic and the impossible are mere elements of everyday life. Is death the end? What are the consequences of prolonging life by supernatural means? How does pain shape our identity?
A violent, touching, unique narrative with a great sense of place, The Soul Catcher features a diverse cast of complex characters – pain healers and lovers, parents and broken souls – that bring life and death to the page. The Soul Catcher explores that which makes us human—the desire to live, the fear of death, the longing for love and the release that comes with the acceptance of fate. Throughout the dark overtones of the interwoven tales of this book, an electric current of transcendence echoes from every page as each character attempts to shift his or her destiny to the whims of their hearts.
This is an author who is not afraid of tragedy. The worst can happen and sometimes it does. But there is also love and joy.
The narrative goes round in a circle of short stories. We begin with Yamini – the Soul Catcher in the title. She uses her supernatural power to heal people – it is her destiny and one from which there is no escape.
Each story leads to another and another and they are all linked. We meet terminally-ill Rishi, his wife Sehar and daughter Amya on their way to board the Nirvana Train. Yamini’s sister Damini can take away people’s pain, but can never lead a normal life. The ‘nun’ at the hospital who calls herself Sister Angela is living a lie, while the nurse, Madhuja, is the Keeper of Lost Memories.
Ajit is the coconut vendor, who lives at the temple, where Dr Meera, the dentist, tries to help the poorest people look after their teeth. She is due to get married any day soon. Geeta is the cleaner at the temple, but she can see things happening in the red rain that she causes to fall. Siya escapes her cruel employers and flees to Jaipur, known as the Pink City. By this time we have come round full circle to the shelter where Yamini now lives.
This is a beautiful book and I love the way each story picks up from the last, the minor character in one becoming the main character in the next. I have never read anything quite like it. It’s also full of magic, but don’t let that put you off. Just take it all at face value and believe in the beauty.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
Monica Bhide is an award-winning writer, accomplished literary coach, gifted poet, storyteller, and educator with a lyrical voice and universal appeal. As a bestselling fiction and internationally renowned cookbook author, Monica is known for sharing food, culture, mystery, and love in her writing.
A respected writing authority, Monica appears regularly on NPR and conducts sold-out workshops on writing, food, culture, and scheduled speaking events at prestigious venues as the Smithsonian Institution, Sackler Gallery, Les Dames d’Escoffier, Georgetown University, and Yale University. She has taught all over the world including conferences in London, Dubai, US etc. She has also been the “Writing Coach in Residence” for the annual conference of the Association of Food Journalists.
Monica’s short story collection, The Devil in Us, topped the list on Kindle as a bestseller in its category of Literary Short Fiction. Her memoir, A Life of Spice, was picked by Eat Your Books as one of the top five food memoirs of 2015.
Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi picked Bhide’s Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009), as one of the “Best Books Ever” for Newsweek in 2009.
The Chicago Tribune named Monica “one of the seven food writers to watch in 2012”.
In April 2012, Mashable.com picked her as one of “the top ten food writers” on Twitter.
Her work has garnered numerous accolades and has been included in four Best Food Writing anthologies (2005, 2009, 2010, and 2014).
As a noted international food writer, Monica has built a diverse and solid audience through her books and articles in top-tier media such as: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal, AARP-the Magazine, Parents Chicago Tribune , Christian Science Monitor, Bon Appétit, Town and Country Travel, Food and Wine, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Health, Better Nutrition, and many others.
Monica lives in Virginia with two sons.