Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Review: Split by Swati Avasthi
Author: Swati Avasthi
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I've never been one of those last-minute people. I do my homework the day I receive it, I finish projects a week in advance, and I am a responsible American Citizen. Yet, when it came to writing a review for Split, I avoided it like the plague. I would see Split on my list of "Books To Be Reviewed" and I'd write reviews for novels I'd read far after I finished Split. In fact, I kept pushing it further and further behind in my reviewing schedule that I was simply forced to admit to myself that I needed to write this review, not for my readers, but for myself. I know I can't do justice to this beautiful novel with words alone, but I at least owe it to Swati Avasthi for writing such a compelling story to try.
Split is, to put it bluntly, a novel about domestic violence. When sixteen-year-old Jace shows up on the doorstep of his older brother's apartment with nothing but a bruise on his face, a car, a camera, and a few dollars, he hopes his life is about to change. It's been years since he last saw Christian, his older brother who managed to run away from their abusive father and start a new life for himself, and now with Jace having escaped the clutches of their father too, the two brothers can only hope that Jace's mother will join them in an abusive-free life as well. Yet, Christian is reluctant to even think about his past and the dynamics between the two brothers are awkward at best. Furthermore, Jace must battle with his own inner-demons as he fears he may follow in the deadly footsteps of his father himself, all while dealing with a new school, new home, new life, and new relationships. Split is a shockingly realistic look, not only at the effect domestic violence can have on ones life, but the struggle to move on from a horrible past and look forward in life.
In all honesty, I avoid novels like Split at all costs. Or at least, I used to. I'm not one of those people who enjoys reading about stories based on true events and I simply hate being forced to accept some of the more brutal realities of this world, but something about Split drew me in. I think what makes it such an astounding novel is not only the evocative writing and prose, but the manner in which Avasthi manages to convey the true horror of this situation. We all know about domestic violence and its impact on people's lives, but do we feel it? Well, no, we don't. We all live in our warm homes, sitting on plush chairs and tapping away on brand-new computers while we have the occasional family tiff or disagreement, but Split truly takes you into the mindset of an abuse victim and makes us experience, for the first time, just how lucky we truly are.
Jace, the narrator and protagonist of this tale, is written with so much depth and character that you really just want to do nothing but envelop him in a giant teddy bear hug. I can't imagine what it's like to suffer what he has, but Avasthi paints a striking picture of his life and his struggles to move on from his past. We, as the reader, truly feel Jace's pain and we are able to understand how that hurt is so much more than physical torture - it is mental torture as well. Furthermore, Jace is pained by the thought that he is like his father, or at least has the potential to become someone like him. Jace's journey and his struggles to become a better person are heart-warming and simply touching beyond anything else.
Yet, even beyond just Jace, his growing relationship with his brother is what made me love this book so much. It is a slow and awkward relationship with each sibling balancing on a fine line, but somehow, despite all odds, it begins to grow and blossom into something breath-taking. With Christian, Jace can finally find the family he wants and with Jace, Christian can finally begin to accept his brutal past. Christian's journey is just as big a part of this story as Jace's and I was equally invested in it, if not even more touched by it, simply because Christian has been hurting for so many more years than Jace has. Yet, although both brothers have undergone some of the same experiences, their pain stems from different roots and Avasthi makes us recognize this change in a wonderfully subtle manner as well.
Split, while being a novel about domestic violence on the surface, really goes so much deeper to explore the psychological effects of this abuse and detail a wonderful journey towards change. While her characters truly drive this story, with their changing relationships and inner growth, I found that the manner in which Avasthi simply tackled on this situation as a whole, examining what made people resort to domestic violence and the horror it could cause, was so realistic. If I had to find fault with this story, it would be in Avasthi's portrayal of Jace and Christian's mother. In many ways, I understand that domestic violence is a situation you cannot get out of sometimes, no matter how much you want to, and more than physical abuse, it is a psychological type of mind-rape, forcing the victim to believe that they cannot live without their abuser or must stay with them at all costs. Yet, I still wished for a slightly happier ending than what I got, but overall, I can't complain too much. Split went above and beyond anything I ever expected for this novel and for that, I am more than a little awed.
Overall, this novel is simply brilliant. It is a powerful, thought-provoking, and beautifully-written novel about two brothers coming to terms with their past and learning how to move on - together. While it does contain a romance, it is subtle and only adds to the plot, making it a wonderful additional factor. I doubt I'll ever read a novel like Split again and while I know the subject-matter may scare off potential readers, more than anything else, this is a character-driven novel about hope. I cannot say it enough, but Split is one of those books that will just sit with you for hours afterwards and despite the horror of its concept, it is one of the most gut-wrenching, yet heart-warming, tales I've ever read. It is a must-read for absolutely everyone and I cannot recommend it enough. I know my review barely touches up so many aspects of this novel and it pales in comparison to the actual novel itself, but it's the best I can do. I am still speechless over the utter beauty of this tale, so all I can really say is that you should read this. It will change your life and if that isn't enough motivation to pick up a novel, I don't quite know what is.