In the month of March, this year, I was preparing for my trip to New Foundland and needed some books, knowing there would be no entertainment while I was there.
I was at my favorite book seller and I actually picked up “The Mountain Shadow” from the shelf, first, because it looked like quite a meaty book, at 873 pages.
When I reached the word “Sequel,” I was like damn … Now I have to read the first book, Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. When I got on the plane on April 13th, I began reading Shantaram, at 933 pages.
It took me more than a month to complete that read, and I was not disappointed by any stretch of imagination. I loved that book from start to finish, and I gushed about it here.
That’s 1806 pages in total. April 13th to July 15th.
One of my followers warned me about The Mountain Shadow. So I went into the book, with a shadow of my own. I finished the book, because I always try to finish a book, I had begun to read. That is not always the case though.
I felt obligated to read the whole book, to dispel the shadow I went into it with, and to figure out what I would eventually say about it here.
I really missed Prabaker. His smile, his love, and his charm.
“The Mountain Shadow” had its cast of characters that were well written and fleshed out. The First book in a series is usually better than the sequels that follow. That is a usual trend in many series I have read over time.
The Mountain Shadow was a bit darker and much more intense, with the story unfolding into a new chapter of Shantaram’s life. I had to reach the conclusion, to find out if, in the end, Shantaram had found redemption and had figured out his life.
It was not the end I was looking for. I was hoping for something with a little more depth, so the end fell short for me. I’m not giving anything away in saying that. If you want to know why, then you’ll have to read the series from start to finish as I did.
Being in recovery from drugs and alcohol, and reading this series is like smoking and drinking with every word on the page. Everything is book-ended with a chillum and a drink it seemed.
Gregory says at the end of the story that:
This novel depicts some characters who are living self-destructive lives. Authenticity demands that they drink and smoke and take drugs. I don’t endorse drinking, smoking or drug taking, just as I don’t endorse crime and criminality as a lifestyle choice, or violence as a valid means of conflict resolution. What I do endorse is doing our best to be fair, honest, positive and creative with ourselves and others.
Shantaram comes to Bombay to find a life. Because he is fleeing a life in prison.
Did he find that life ? Yes, I think so. Was he honest, Yes I think so.
I believe he had to do what he thought he had to do to survive, in the choices he made to do what he chose to do in the story. Behind the work Shantaram did, there was honesty, love and devotion. That is clearly evident.
Shantaram knows loyalty and love. He learns these two things in the relationships he has with many of the men and women he works for, and those he serves in the Island City.
I’ve known my share of alcoholics and I’ve also known my share of drug dealers. The drug dealers I knew in my past, were good people. They had good hearts even if those hearts were wrapped in weed and alcohol.
I don’t hate them, nor do I scorn them either. They did what they did, because those were the cards they were dealt.
Behind the dirty, crime ridden, drug infested, alcohol swilling story of survival, is a story about love, honor, loyalty and in a way redemption.
We all have lives to live. It might take some time, but if I am honest, at some point we find the vocation we are meant to live out, eventually.
It is all about the Positive Attributes and the Universe that exists around us. Our connection to all that is, in the service of the many, to the good of all.
We are to bring positive attributes into the world, in our lives, in our relationships and in our work. The greater good you bring into your world and the world, the better off we all are.
Shantaram and The Mountain Shadow are worth your Time, Effort, and Devotion.
Gregory David Roberts did a fine job in telling a total story.
It has been a really great week. Last night I completed the longest read I have invested in, in a very long time. That book is Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts.
One day I was shopping for the baby, at our local Indigo Book Sellers downtown. I was going to Cold Call the book shelves. A practice I usually employ, when I want an adventure, or as our speaker said tonight … “A little escapism…”
The Sequel to Shantaram, The Mountain Shadow, made me stop and pick it up off the shelf, because of the Hard Cover Dust Ruffle. When the word, Sequel, appeared in the bio, I was like SHIT ! Now I have to read the first book.
I put the sequel down, and picked up Shantaram.
Knowing I was going to see Mama and the baby, and knowing that I would be seriously disconnected from the world, while I was there, Shantaram was a really good choice.
Over the past year, I have been sitting in South East Asia, Viet Nam, Saigon and India. It started when I read The Sympathizer, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen. That was the best book I had read, to date, after Donna Tarrt’s The Goldfinch.
That one book, took me on a journey to South East Asia, and then led me to India. Over the course of several books, that I began to read, but put down, because I just was not connecting, Shantaram had to pass the,
“I will commit to you, but you better deliver” thought.
Shantaram delivered in spades.
At 934 pages, it took me 27 days and nights to read it cover to cover.
Writers employ many tools to get you to read their books. And to this point, I was reading stories that were very heavy with visual writing. I can only take so much “filler” in my reads. At some point, I get annoyed with a writer who wants to explain the minutiae of a certain city, town or family.
I want a story, not chapter after chapter of filler …
Gregory David Roberts, is a master story teller. Once I started the read, I had to commit to the book until the last word of the book. Robert’s writing does just that.
India is a country that is wealthy in ways that the Westerner would not necessarily see unless he/she spent ample time, living, loving and loosing like the people of India, namely those in the city of Bombay. Or any city in India really …
A westerner would not necessarily insert themselves into a slum. Why would one do that?
Lin, the main character of the story, is an escaped convict from Australia, and he escapes prison in a brazen broad daylight escape. He is aided and a bedded by friends and fellows, until he finds his way to India.
The story that unfolds is Master storytelling.
Lin, goes from escaped convict, to Bombay resident, to Bombay slum resident/doctor/ healer/friend. He gets involved with Khader Khan. That’s all I want to say about him. The Khader Khan is an incredible character. To tell you anything more about him would say too much, that I would rather have you read for yourself.
Shantaram tracks literal history. Beginning in the time when Indira Ghandi is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Roberts then mentions the Bhutto family, and progresses into the war between the Afghan Mujaheddin and the Russians, when the Russians invade and occupy Afghanistan. The Afghan war is a prominent section of the story.
I found this interesting because I am well versed in India’s history, and the Afghan wars, politically, religiously and sectarian-Ly. I have, in my library, several books that I had already read, each time a name was mentioned or historical event took place on our modern time line, I was familiar with each historical event or person. Which lent to my reading of Shantaram.
I love reading. Books are life, and a life without books, is no life at all …
The Mountain Shadow comes in at 871 pages.
Shantaram ends with several open threads.
One supposed thread, during the story, as it was written, that certain people and problems were finally “put to bed,” but when I reached the last chapter, the story began to unravel, and certain situations, now remain unresolved and new threads were introduced.
Shantaram is a teaching book.
There are many lessons to be learned from Robert’s story. If you are like me, I love knowledge just as much as the act of reading. Being sober, many of the lessons and themes were pertinent to me and made sense, and gave me certain perspective on life and on people in my life.
This book is not just a story to read, but teaches us about what really matters in India, and to her people.
Most Indian’s don’t have much in the way of wealth, unless you were born into wealth, married into wealth, or earned your way out of abject poverty, and had risen out of a slum, into the wider world at large.
Slum dwellers might not have much in “material wealth,” What they DO have is Love, Respect and they are loyal people. Indians have self respect and they are dignified. Lin arrives in Bombay, and ends up meeting a titular character of the story, Prabaker.
Prabaker turns Lin with his smile, and his love. Reading what Lin learns on this journey is very important. I think this story should be required reading for everyone who seeks love, respect and dignity for all men, women and children.
I loved this book, and you will too. What will be the story of YOUR life ???