Fictional autobiography Books

And no birds sing: Review of Tazmeen Amna’s ‘Goner’

Crippling self-doubt, fits of rage, an alcohol overdose and an escape through art — Goner is a fictional first-person account of a young woman’s struggle with mental health and depressive disorders. It is said to be inspired by real-life events.

The protagonist, whose name we never get to know, is a failing artist going through a mid-20s crisis. She is trying to cope with several issues at the same time — remnants of a broken family, memories of an abusive ex-boyfriend, and constant insecurities about her failing job and capacity as an artist.

What happens when it gets too much?

Goner takes us through the few highs and several lows of a depression that ultimately leaves the protagonist in the middle of a blackout. It explores the triggers for a breakdown — right from doorbells to unfinished dishes. The author is able to effectively convey the darkness, the selfishness and the mental clutter that come with depression. Passages are deliberately fractured with random song and rap lyrics, echoing an unstable mind.

A particularly evocative passage of Goner describes how depression and anxiety can be very physical: “You can rub the discomfort between your fingers, feel it pulsating in the side of your neck, going all the way through your head, throbbing in your temples, flowing and flushing down bitterly and hotly from your eyes.”

But such passages seem like fleeting shadows. Building a novel around a character who is suffering from depression puts immense pressure on the author: she has to write about repetitive, bleak episodes and yet evoke something to hold the reader’s attention. In several parts, Goner reads like an entitled, privileged rant.

If you’re looking for literary pleasure, Goner may disappoint. The prose is formulaic young adult fiction.

That said, Goner offers consolation and an encouraging note for those battling their own darknesses. Such works break the silence around an illness that is still stigmatised.

Goner; Tazmeen Amna, Penguin eBury Press, ₹299

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 10:11:54 PM |

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