Book Review : The Reward by R. Singh

The best kind of books are the ones that make you want to write. The Reward by R.Singh does just that.

It starts off interestingly as the writer uses rich imagery to paint vivid pictures of his childhood. The writing here creates such strong impressions, that I shared his nostalgia, when he recollects his childhood memories towards the end of his life. It momentarily made me pine for some of my own childhood… a phase of my life that I like to think about, very little.

The best kind of books are the ones that make you want to write. The Reward by R.Singh (ISBN: 978-0-9842019-0-7) does just that.
It starts off interestingly as the writer uses rich imagery to paint vivid pictures of his childhood. The writing here creates such strong impressions, that I shared his nostalgia, when he recollects his childhood memories towards the end of his life. It momentarily made me pine for some of my own childhood… a phase of my life that I like to think about, very little.
But for me, the story is as much about the words as it is about the pictures. There are portions, where the writing takes the form of staccato; short, clipped sentences, as though the narrator is pausing for emphasis. Like in music, I find the effect more annoying than poignant.

The man in the black coat motioned me back to my father’s table. It was starting to feel cold. We ate shrimp in silence. Families came and went. We looked at our water glasses, and occasionally, each other. We were both very tired.

The narrator, Antonio, is incredibly self aware as he relates his childhood experiences, his relationship with his parents, his parents’ tumultous marriage, his sister, his best friend Ramon… He shares every thought, no matter how flippant or meaningful.
But then he outs himself to his friend Tika in a self-conscious blurt, almost unexpectedly. I found it jarring that his awareness about being a “maricón” was never mentioned in the story before. It was as if that awareness was meant to be a secret from his readers. I was surprised by own emotional response to this incident. I felt betrayed, like he had let me down somehow by not sharing his secret with me first. I was no longer rooting for him, as I read along. I also felt little empathy for him when he indulged in self-pity.

I lost interest in church. Where was God’s brain? They mess up, so I have to be a homosexual? I get treated badly, and it’s their punishment? If God made us in his image, why did he make mosquitoes?

I thought, “So NOW you want to talk to me about this? Too little too late.” But eventually Antonio wins you over and you find yourself on his side again. He doesn’t struggle with his sexuality the way such narrators tend to do. He’s comfortable with it and does not let his personality be uni-dimensional. I’ve often found that homosexuality sometimes tends to be primary way in which some people see themselves. “I am gay first; everything else later”. But Antonio is gay just like he’s ambitious, kind and sensitive. His sexuality isn’t central to the book just as it isn’t central to his life. It’s a part of the journey just as his career and friendships are.
When I started reading the book, I was curious about the brevity as the novella spanned a little over 150 pages. Half way through the book, I was convinced it would be a rather unsatisfying finish with an abrupt ending, as such books tend to be. But I am quite pleased, the book ended just right. All loose ends were tied neatly and the book couldn’t have been any longer (perhaps 10 pages shorter).
Now for the obligatory standard book review finale: If you want to know what the book is about, just read the first page at the bookshop. It is exactly what it promises to be. Not overwhelming, not underwhelming. Just right. It may not be for people who like happy endings, but I can see it being made into a movie that will do well on the film festival circuit.

Addendum: I read a correspondence from the publisher to Broom, that leads me to believe the book may not be fictional. If this is indeed true, I would urge more people to buy this book simply to be astonished by the kind of life Antonia seems to have led. If it turns out that it isn’t a real life story, you’ll still be glad for having read it.

About the author

The Cathartist

The Cathartist is the Editor at GaysiFamily. She remembers nearly all her dreams to the last detail, would rather skip a movie than watch it after missing the first five minutes, has a rare form of Tourettes leading to inappropriate conversations and is a hopeless jerk magnet. If she ever writes a book, it will be called "La tyrannie d'anciens amoureux".