Bookish Witch

The Cinderella of Karnal: A psychological thriller by Reecha Agarwal Goyal

Book Blurb:

When she was not even out of her mother’s womb, Diya was blamed for her father’s death. She was labelled ‘inauspicious’ by the society. As she grew, she descried many other faces of society – all hideous! But she wasn’t someone who would take being a pawn in the hands of society. She wouldn’t let the mud thrown at her, stick.
She runs away from her home and gets herself enrolled in a college in Chandigarh in pursuit of her dream of becoming a clinical psychologist, returning to her town, Karnal, and launching a massive repair drive. At college, she learns how pervasive mental illness is. And how ignored. She vows on breaking the stigmas attached with it. She pledges on working tirelessly towards creating an awareness about mental health and establishing social justice. But things aren’t always as simple as they look. Diya finds herself entangled in a web of murders, mysteries, secrets, deceits and life. The flickering life. Will the story of this Cinderella of Karnal have a fairytale ending?

Genre: Fiction/Drama

Pages: 112

Format: Kindle eBook

Price: 49 INR/$ 0.99

My Ratings 5/5

Diya hails from a small town Karnal in India where she grows up facing the brunt of harsh comments and gender bias. When she is about to be forced into a marriage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees the town to create her own identity. Life finally seems good for Diya, with a husband, a daughter, and a degree in psychology. But things take an ugly unexpected turn, leading to revelations that nobody is prepared for. What does Diya’s past have to do with her present? Read this psychological thriller to find out.

When it comes to mental health, there’s still a lot to be done.

What I liked about the book:
–> Finally, after months, I read a psychological thriller that was not predictable.
–> The analogy of Diya’s name, which means a lamp, and how she later actually becomes a literal’ lamp’ for the people of Karnal through her woke work around women’s issues and mental healthcare.
–> The character of Kanika as Diya’s best friend, proving that when it comes to mental health problems, we need the unwavering and unbiased support of friends (and family)
–> The story sends out a very important message when it comes to sexual abuse, which is that when it comes to such issues, it is usually people in the close family or circle who are the perpetrators of such acts.
–> It teaches us that the root cause of mental disorders is usually the actions and functioning of the society.
–> Diya’s decision to return to Karnal despite having faced so much harshness there and the way she tackles the problems and successfully brings about a positive change, especially in the womenfolk. I, especially loved how Diya is someone who has faced a problem, overcome it, and instead of moving on with her life, she decides to help others with similar problems.
–> There are subtle hints through Diya’s statements and behavior which make it obvious that there’s some major issue, but love how, when the issue is revealed, it turns out to be so unexpected, shocking, and heart wrenching.
–> How the book ends on a cliffhanger (and also points to the fact that mental illness is a lifelong battle)

What I did not like about the book:
–> A little clarity around the accident that led to the big reveal, would have made the story more interesting.
–> The minor (barely noticeable three to four) grammatical and typing errors.

(But these are tiny issues I was able to ignore and which did not stop me from rating the book 5/5 because it’s just that good!!)

Quotable quotes:
—> She had come to realise that one has to fight for their rights.
—> She loved books. They opened her mind. They widened her imagination. They offered hope. And they were a gateway to her dreams.
—> Everything in this damned world needed a repair.
—> Guilt is a very harmful emotion.You can fight sorrow, you can fight anger, you can even fight despair but guilt is a very strong opponent.
—> Balance. Moderation. Two words that held the secret to happiness.
—> Other than books, she never really had friends. She found reading books more satisfying than conversing with human beings. Ask her about it and she would say that there were all kinds of characters in the books. Wretched, flawed, perfect… but those characters were all very real. Dependable. Their actions were justified. But with human beings, it was all messed up. The psychology classes helped her understand them to an extent, but still she had her own reservations. Plus, she was a nonconformist and not everybody could understand and put up with her unconventional ideologies.
—> She is a mother and a mother’s heart is not capable of holding onto anger and grudges forever.
—> There was art in simplicity. Art in white.
—> Out of the many things that perplexed Diya, one was why would people wear spectacles if they had to remove them to see things clearly.
—> “Betterment”. The theory that we live by. Every day you wake up better than the previous day. You leave any place that you visit, better than what it was before you visited it and you leave anyone that you meet better than what they were before you met them.
—> Learning is never a one-way process.
—> We look for human faces, even in inanimate objects. Haven’t we all noticed faces seemingly staring back at us from inanimate objects? That’s called pareidolia, and scientists think it comes from the fact that recognizing faces is so important to social life that our brains would rather find one where there isn’t one than miss a real-life face. “The pain from being ignored is not an overreaction. It has similar chemical effects as any physical injury.
—> Broken heart could be a legitimate cause of death. It can cause a short-term muscle malfunction which can in turn cause a cardiac arrest.
—> Loneliness strips the fun out of everything – be it success or anything.
—> Deep inside, every human being craved acceptance, love and company of other human beings. Man was and would always be a social being.
—> What did psychology tell about love? Nothing much, actually. No discipline has ever been able to make any impressive research in this area. Love has always been a mystery.
—> I came with my own set of preconceived beliefs and notions. I thought I understood human nature. However, I was proved wrong. Real world is very different and unless you are ready to let go of your suppositions and presumptions, unless you are ready to unlearn, you can never really learn.”
—> At least there was something good about diseases. Diseases didn’t discriminate!
—> A mind can sometimes make an erroneous judgment. A heart can sometimes be tricked into taking a wrong decision.
—> If we are to fight an enemy, we have to first know everything about it.
—> The mother was right. When isn’t she?
—> I still believe marriage is an institution created by the society to keep people together superficially. If you have to get married to stay together, it only proves how weak your love is. I don’t believe in marriages. It is just one of those nonsensical traditions by which this society binds us.
—> No one, how much ever important, can sit on such a sizable part of your universe.
—> Heartbreak is one of the most painful things in life. Bemoan. Lament. But, don’t let your world end there. You won’t get over it in a day. It is not easy. But, neither is it impossible. Just focus consciously and consistently on the milky way.
—> Everyone in this life was fighting a battle of their own. Some with a frown, some with a beam.
—> “I think the baby just kicked for the first time.” Diya smiled as she caressed her bump.
“Life is funny. Who would think being kicked could also be a happy feeling?”
—> Some people didn’t change with time and that was a relief.
—> Anything- anything at all – can be endured if you have your family by your side. Family, your own little world.
—> Friendship is the purest form of relationship among human beings. A relationship that is not bound by blood ties or commitment but pure love. The world would be such a happy place if every relationship was daubed with splashes of friendship. Friendship heals.
—> There were very few days when Diya took any efforts to get ready. ‘Utter waste of time’ she would call it. ‘Life is already short’ she would add.
—> That’s the fundamental rule of life. Life must go on.
—> Once a woman was a mother, her strength increased manifold.
—> Sometimes, you look at a person and it’s impossible to imagine them in a profession other than what they are already a part of.
—> Irony was another name for life.
—> Sometimes, knowing too much was a curse.
—> Truth was truth whether you believed in it or not.
—> There are times, when silence can give the kind of solace to a heart, that words can never give.
—> Sometimes giving in was a prerequisite for winning certain battles.
—> In the end, truth finds us all. The sooner, the better.
—> Even after so much gloominess in her life, even after being surrounded with so much darkness, Diya’s face lit up. Maybe, that’s the kind of impact true friends have on you.
—> Certain traits like perversity are so deeply ingrained in human nature that it’s difficult to obliterate them.
—> One needs certain intrinsic qualities, a specific attitude to become someone. Books cannot teach everything.
—> An act of injustice disrupts the harmony of nature. Disbalances it. It is only justice that can restore the balance. And, any step towards aligning the scale, however small, makes a difference.
—>We should help people fight their mental demons. Demons, that are seemingly harmless but that play havoc with one’s life. Demons that shatter one completely. To be honest, defeating these demons is not difficult. The real enemy is the family. Their mindsets. Their fear of the society. Their ignorance. And when, the victim is a man, the fight becomes all the more difficult. The family checkmates with just one statement ‘Don’t sulk like a girl’! It’s a tough battle.
—> There is always something for a student to learn. A student never really knows everything.
—> In life, irony presented itself in mysterious ways.
—> Some people, some things and some places just didn’t change!
—> The concept of mental health needed acceptance in cities, it needed introduction in villages and small towns like Karnal.
—> Being prepared for something and actually facing it were two different things.
—> The most important battles of life were fought and won alone!
—> What tool did she have to contest against the system? And the answer was ‘speech’. Words. Words that had the power to spur a revolution. And she decided she would speak. She would roar!
—> Darkness can only be perceived after one has known light.
—> Tolerating injustice is as much a crime as committing it. Silence is never an answer, silence is not golden.

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