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Half Life [NOOK Book]

Overview


On the morning that changes everything, Aruna Ahmed Jones walks out of her ground-floor Victorian apartment in London wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, carrying nothing more substantial than a handbag, and keeps on walking.  Leaving behind the handsome Dr. Patrick Jones, her husband of less than a year, Aruna heads to Heathrow, where she boards a plane bound for Singapore and her old life.  Educated and beautiful, Aruna has a desperate need to risk it all.  But why?  Waiting for her is a ...

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Half Life

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Overview


On the morning that changes everything, Aruna Ahmed Jones walks out of her ground-floor Victorian apartment in London wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, carrying nothing more substantial than a handbag, and keeps on walking.  Leaving behind the handsome Dr. Patrick Jones, her husband of less than a year, Aruna heads to Heathrow, where she boards a plane bound for Singapore and her old life.  Educated and beautiful, Aruna has a desperate need to risk it all.  But why?  Waiting for her is a messy past and a perfect past lover she had once abandoned without even saying goodbye – a story left unfinished – until now.

 

Aruna is not running away from home, she is running back to the home she always had, before it became impossible for her to stay.  Before her father, the only family she’d ever known, passed away.  Before she tried, and failed, to create a life and a family with her best friend and lover, Jazz.  Before her doctor delivered a complicated psychological diagnosis she’d rather forget.  After years of fleeing the ghosts that continue to haunt her, Aruna is about to discover that running away is really the easy part; it is coming home—making peace with her past, with Jazz and those they have loved—that is hard.  Spanning the world from London to Singapore to India and back again, Half Life is a richly layered tale of love and conflict, friendship and sacrifice, the luminous story of a young woman who risks everything in order to find where she truly belongs.



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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this compelling tale, novelist Farooki (Bitter Sweets) follows Bengali doctor Aruna Ahmed Jones, who has impulsively married a British physician, hoping to forget a tragic romance with her old friend Ejaz “Jazz” Ahsan, who she left behind in Singapore's Little India. A recovering drug addict, Aruna has suffered from bipolar disorder and had a string of miscarriages during her time with Jazz, leaving her in a delicate state of mind; inspired by a letter from Jazz's adopted dad, who, in a parallel plot, is dying in a hospital in Malaysia, Aruna decides to leave her husband and return to Singapore to face Jazz and the terrible news that tore them apart. Farooki's hypnotic narrative is driven by a delicate, probing intensity, full of grace and poignancy. (May)
From the Publisher
 “A lovely, graceful, and utterly compelling love story.” —EntertainmentWeekly

“Compelling… Farooki’s hypnotic narrative is driven by a delicate, probing intensity, full of grace and poignancy.” –Publishers Weekly

"Lovers of literary fiction will not want to miss this vibrant, moving novel from the gifted Farooki." —Booklist

"Utterly compelling...Moments of utter emotional bleakness are rendered bearable by the fragile beauty of the images Farooki uses to describe them. This is proper storytelling  – we are provided with a character we find ourselves caring about, and want to discover what becomes of her. One thing will always stand out when it matters: the author's voice. And Farooki has one to be proud of." —The Independent (UK)

“A heartfelt tale that skips seamlessly from continent to continent and reveals how the ghosts of our pasts have to be laid to rest before we can come back home.”

—Farahad Zama, author of The Marriage Bureau for Rich People series

Praise for Roopa Farooki:

“Aspirations and family ties play out across three generations of the Khalil family in Farooki's fine new novel…. [A] flawed yet likable cast… question what, exactly, leads to a more fulfilled life. This character- and culture-rich novel will appeal to Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith fans.”

—Publishers Weekly on Corner Shop

“Farooki's characters are convincingly complex… While her first novel, Bitter Sweets, was called "enjoyably breezy" (New York Times), this work has a depth to it that requires more substantial adjectives. Highly recommended.”

Library Journal on Corner Shop

“A complex exploration of the ever-changing nature of wants and desires and the consequences of achieving one’s dreams, Farooki’s tale eschews easy answers for the complex, appealing characters that people its pages.”

Booklist on Corner Shop

 “[An] enjoyably breezy book… Despite its emphasis on deception, dislocation and the loss of love, [Bitter Sweets] retains a cheery consistency: It has managed to be sunnily devious from the start. And it delivers a refreshing message. Only by means of all their elaborate deceptions do these characters figure out who they really are.”

–Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Fast-paced and populated with characters as colorful as a closetful of saris, Farooki’s debut follows three generations of an Indian family….While there are enough surprise plot twists to keep the tale entertaining, it’s the characters’ emotional musings that make it memorable.”

People (3 stars) on Bitter Sweets

“Roopa Farooki’s delicious debut novel…is a candy apple of a book, an alluring confection that is substantial and healthful at its heart….This book…is simply, shrewdly sweet.”

More magazine on Bitter Sweets

“This sparkling, fresh debut follows three generations of a family caught up in the web of their own deceit….Farooki’s vibrant characters leap off the page and straight into the imagination in this clever and intricate novel.”

Booklist (starred review) on Bitter Sweets

Library Journal
Set in London, Singapore, and Malaysia, this tells the story of Aruna, a young woman who must make peace with her past in order to move forward. A newlywed, Aruna abandons her British husband to return home to Singapore, where she faces Jazz, the soul mate she had abruptly left a few years earlier. A parallel story involves Jazz's estranged father, Hassan, who is dying alone in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur. Aruna is a complex, sometimes maddening character who mistreats those who love her. The story sets up a mystery about Aruna's parentage, but the unraveling of that mystery is ultimately a letdown. The more moving parts of the novel turn out to be the desire of Hassan to end his life and the willingness of Aruna to make compromises. Farooki, a British writer born in Pakistan, has published four novels (e.g., Bitter Sweets). Though not as overtly political, she employs a dramatic tension somewhat reminiscent of that of Pakistani writer Bapsi Sidhwa. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoy family dramas with a bit of cross-cultural tension. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/10.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Tech. Coll., Greenwood, SC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429924696
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,317,929
  • File size: 229 KB

Meet the Author


Roopa Farooki was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and brought up in London.  She graduated from New College, Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and worked in advertising before writing fiction full time.  Roopa now lives in Southeast England and Southwest France with her husband and two young sons, and teaches creative writing at the Canterbury Christ Chuch University masters' program.
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Read an Excerpt

Aruna
King Edward’s Road, Bethnal Green, London
It’s time to stop fighting, and go home. Those were the words which finally persuaded Aruna to walk out of her ground-floor Victorian flat in Bethnal Green, and keep on walking. One step at a time, one foot, and then the other, her inappropriately flimsy sandals flip-flopping on the damp east London streets; she avoids the dank, brown puddles, the foil glint of the takeaway containers glistening with the vibrant slime of sweet and sour sauce, the mottled banana skin left on the pavement like a practical joke, but otherwise walks in a straight line. One foot, and then the other. Toe to heel to toe to heel. Flip-flop. She knows exactly where she is going, and even though she could have carried everything she needs in her dressing-gown pocket – her credit card, her passport, her phone – she has taken her handbag instead, and she has paused in her escape long enough to dress in jeans, a T-shirt and even a jacket. Just for show. So that people won’t think that she is a madwoman who has walked out on her marriage and her marital home in the middle of breakfast, with her half-eaten porridge congealing in the bowl, with her tea cooling on the counter top. So that she won’t think so either. So she can turn up at the airport looking like anyone else, hand over her credit card, and run back to the city she had run away from in the first place.
It’s time to stop fighting, and go home. She hasn’t left a note. It’s not as though she is planning to kill herself, like last time. Then she had left a note, thinking it only polite, to exonerate her husband from any blame or self-reproach, to apologize and excuse herself, as though she were a schoolgirl asking to be let off gym class, instead of the rest of her life. When she had returned, having not gone through with it after all, her hair damp and reedy-smelling, as though she had simply been swimming in the Hampstead Heath Ponds instead of trying to drown herself there, the note was still on the counter. Patrick had been working late. She wasn’t sure if she had failed to end her life because she was too lazy and noncommittal – she hadn’t tried hard enough; the gentle, shallow water hadn’t tried hard enough either, it had bobbed her back up again and offered no helpful current. Perhaps, like the water, she was just too kind – it was kinder for everyone if she lived, wasn’t it? All life, even a life as unimportant as hers, performed some kindness to those it touched; wouldn’t her husband, if no one else, appreciate this kindness? Or perhaps that was just vanity – she hadn’t destroyed the note, but had smoothed it into their diary on the kitchen table, as one might a shopping list, or a love letter, or a poem; but Patrick had never noticed it, because he didn’t make appointments, she supposed. She eventually screwed it up and put it into the recycling box, which Patrick did take care of, judiciously separating paper, glass and plastic. He still didn’t see it – or if he did, he saw it as just another piece of paper. Patrick, ironically for a medical professional whose job is to observe, seems to see very little indeed, at least when it comes to her. He persistently mistakes her for someone better than she is, as though his gaze stops just short of her. He frequently expresses his love for her, but the truth is that he doesn’t know her very well, and she is sure that should he need to fill out a missing persons form, he would be distressed to realize that he doesn’t know her height, her weight, her dress size. He would possibly even be unsure of her exact age and birthday. Although he would probably get her hair and eyes right, as she has the same hair and eyes as almost every woman of Bengali descent. She imagines him filling out this part of the form with confidence, with relief, even; hair: black, eyes: brown.
She didn’t leave a note this time, as she has no idea what she would have put in it; apart from saying that she had left, but her absence would do this anyway. Wouldn’t it? Was it possible that Patrick would come home and go to work and come home and go to work and not notice until the weekend that she was missing, assuming that she was out shopping or working late in the faculty library, especially as she has recently been in the business of avoiding him in order to steer clear of the difficult conversation about babies that he seems so intent on pursuing. Was she wrong in assuming that her absence would be more noticeable than her presence? They live parallel, independent lives, and have always done so; he complains that even when she’s in, she’s out. When at home she supposes that she is not much more than a small creature curled indifferently on the sofa or in the bath or in the corner of the bed, scrawling in her notebooks with a quiet persistent scratching, working on her laptop with a quiet persistent tapping, but otherwise barely there, without a height or a weight or a dress size worth recalling.
She supposes that such a note should say the truth about why she is leaving, but there is no larger truth. There is nothing significant. There is no Big Important Question to be answered. She has not had an affair, she is not in trouble with the law or in debt, she does not hate him or dislike him at all: like most couples, they fight and bicker all the time, about the ridiculous minutiae of their shared life; who last loaded the dishwasher, and where the toilet roll should be stored. They argue about her refusal, thus far, to consider pregnancy and whether to spend Christmas with the in-laws. There is really nothing but the trivial problems of the everyday, and to other people she looks like nothing so much as an ordinary woman, recently married, as yet childless, with ordinary cares. She looks like this even to herself, on occasion; an ordinary woman, in an ordinary life, wondering why she has striven to be ordinary above everything else. Perhaps she expected it would bring her peace of mind, bringing together the pieces of mind that still inhabit her, their little voices whining inside like shards of glass waiting to pierce through her skin and reveal how sliced up and fragmented she has secretly been within herself, for such a long time. The only thing that currently makes her more than ordinary, extraordinary even, is that she has written and recycled a suicide note, without anyone in the world noticing, and that she has decided to stop fighting, and go home.
The funny thing, laugh-out-loud funny when she dwells on it, is that she didn’t say those words in an earnest discussion with her husband, they weren’t advised her by a mother or a friend or a therapist or a lover. The words simply fell out of a book she had been skim-reading over breakfast that had some relevance to her research; fell out almost as casually as a child’s gift from a cereal packet, or junk mail from her morning newspaper. It was a comment between one prodigal son and another, unwilling opponents in a bloody conflict. And as she read it, she thought, OK then. Like a switch had been gently flicked in her head, and she had finally been prompted into action; leaving the breakfast table, dressing carelessly and rather too lightly for the British weather, and taking her handbag. She had put her passport in and taken her keys out, feeling a weight fall from her as she let them tumble onto the glass table in the hall with a musical tinkle. She had breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of them as she shut the door behind her. How easy it was, ridiculously easy, to leave. She suddenly felt so free that she really did laugh out loud, and stopped herself abruptly in case the neighbours heard. It was important to her that she didn’t seem mad, that she didn’t leave the house in her dressing gown, that she wasn’t seen laughing or muttering to herself or crying in the streets; she felt that if she ever let her little bit of insanity out, she might never contain it again, like a wild thing set free. She hadn’t laughed because she was mad, she had laughed because some random words written long ago by a stranger had spoken to her, and she had unaccountably given them the importance of a prophecy. Her keys left on the table were her proof – she wouldn’t be coming back this time.
Aruna only makes it as far as the cafe on the corner, when she starts to have doubts. It is her reflection in the glass that stops her; she sees herself in her summer jacket and sandals, on a blustery spring day, dressed for the weather of the place she is going to, rather than the place she is leaving. She realizes that although she has dressed, she has not washed her face, brushed her teeth, or combed her hair, which crackles with artless tangles and stands away from her face. She has a feverish flush, and she is sure that she can see that bright glint of madness in her eyes that she has worked so hard to suppress. Her disguise of jeans and a T-shirt isn’t working as well as it might – instead of having the invisibility of a Gap ad, she feels as transparently out of place as a bag lady in a ball gown. Perhaps she should have just gone out in her dressing gown after all, because then someone kind would have seen her for what she is, seen her glassy eyes and wild hair, and escorted her back to her flat (not to her home, she never calls the flat home, she just calls it the flat, or occasionally, when she is speaking to American colleagues at her faculty, the apartment). Perhaps this good Samaritan whom she will now never meet, whom she unaccountably regrets not meeting, would have made her a fresh cup of tea, and then tucked her back in bed like an invalid. Her reflection nods at her knowingly – she is acting irresponsibly again. The reflection seems a little too knowing in fact, as though it is no longer connected to her, and imitates her gestures in mockery rather than by necessity; she waves at it tentatively to check that it will wave too. She is taken aback when a figure inside the cafe comes up to the glass, and waves back instead. ‘Hi Aruna, nice of you to stop by,’ says Syed, the cafe owner, coming across to his open doorway, sipping from a cup of coffee that lets off little wisps of steam into the cool air. Aruna says nothing for a moment, stunned at how easily real life has invaded her again, someone waving to her and naming her, mistakenly thinking that she was greeting them from outside their window. She is unsure whether there is an edge to his voice, a criticism, something that implies she doesn’t stop by often enough.
‘Hi Sy,’ she says eventually, hiding her hostility behind apologetic guilt, as though she really has failed to fulfil some mysterious etiquette regarding the acceptable frequency of attending one’s local cafe. Everything makes her feel vaguely on guard, even a casual greeting from a shopkeeper she barely knows.
‘Your hubby stopped by this morning too. Picked up his coffee on the way to work. He told me that I was drinking too much of the stuff, can you believe? I said to him, I said, “Patrick, mate, I wouldn’t trust a bald hair-dresser, I wouldn’t trust a skinny chef, and I wouldn’t trust a cafe owner who doesn’t drink his own coffee.” ’
Aruna says nothing; her eyes have drifted back to her reflection, and Syed, who is old enough to be her father, asks almost kindly, ‘Are you coming in then?’ There is no edge to his voice after all, just a touch of impatience, as though she is a dawdling child in need of a little push. Aruna is unable to say no, as that would involve explaining why, and so she nods and drifts in, and takes the seat near the window.
‘So, coffee?’ suggests Syed, ‘I’ve got the fair trade stuff that you guys like. Americano for you, isn’t it?’
‘OK,’ says Aruna, aware as she says it how ungracious she sounds, as though she is doing him a favour. ‘I mean, please.’ She sips the coffee when he brings it over, making an appreciative noise at odds with how she really feels.
‘And how’s the family?’ asks Syed politely. Aruna smiles back, just as politely; she has no family, apart from Patrick, and it strikes her as funny that Syed doesn’t know this. She is relieved that he doesn’t know that much about her after all, perhaps her disguise is still intact.
‘Oh, we’re all fine. How about yours?’ she asks.
‘Fine too. My wife went away for the weekend with her girlfriends. Went to Madrid, and complained about how some overpriced restaurant she went to was run by Pakistanis rather than Spaniards. As though we weren’t Pakis ourselves. Funny how bigoted she gets when she goes abroad. She expects London to be cosmopolitan but the rest of Europe to be lily white.’
‘I didn’t know you were from Pakistan,’ says Aruna, stirring her coffee.
‘Where did you think I was from, with a name like Syed?’ he asks.
‘I don’t know. Here, I guess. I just thought you were English.’
‘So, where are you from?’ asks Syed, cleaning out the filters, just making conversation. Another couple of customers come in and start examining the chalkboard menu hung on the cafe wall.
‘Singapore,’ says Aruna, ‘But my parents were from the Bengal.’ She has another sip of coffee, and realizes that she has to leave, before she gets sucked back into her ordinary life, before she calls a locksmith and gets herself let back into her flat, where she will finish her cold porridge, load the dishwasher (it is her turn, her husband reminded her this morning, trying not to nag, but not quite succeeding) and have a shower. ‘I’ll leave you to it,’ she says, going up to the till and handing over her change.
Excerpted from Half Life by .
Copyright © 2010 by Roopa Farooki.
Published in May 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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First Chapter

Half Life


By Roopa Farooki

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Roopa Farooki
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312577902

ArunaKing Edward’s Road, Bethnal Green, London
It’s time to stop fighting, and go home. Those were the words which finally persuaded Aruna to walk out of her ground-floor Victorian flat in Bethnal Green, and keep on walking. One step at a time, one foot, and then the other, her inappropriately flimsy sandals flip-flopping on the damp east London streets; she avoids the dank, brown puddles, the foil glint of the takeaway containers glistening with the vibrant slime of sweet and sour sauce, the mottled banana skin left on the pavement like a practical joke, but otherwise walks in a straight line. One foot, and then the other. Toe to heel to toe to heel. Flip-flop. She knows exactly where she is going, and even though she could have carried everything she needs in her dressing-gown pocket – her credit card, her passport, her phone – she has taken her handbag instead, and she has paused in her escape long enough to dress in jeans, a T-shirt and even a jacket. Just for show. So that people won’t think that she is a madwoman who has walked out on her marriage and her marital home in the middle of breakfast, with her half-eaten porridge congealing in the bowl, with her tea cooling on the counter top. So that she won’t think so either. So she can turn up at the airport looking like anyone else, hand over her credit card, and run back to the city she had run away from in the first place.
It’s time to stop fighting, and go home. She hasn’t left a note. It’s not as though she is planning to kill herself, like last time. Then she had left a note, thinking it only polite, to exonerate her husband from any blame or self-reproach, to apologize and excuse herself, as though she were a schoolgirl asking to be let off gym class, instead of the rest of her life. When she had returned, having not gone through with it after all, her hair damp and reedy-smelling, as though she had simply been swimming in the Hampstead Heath Ponds instead of trying to drown herself there, the note was still on the counter. Patrick had been working late. She wasn’t sure if she had failed to end her life because she was too lazy and noncommittal – she hadn’t tried hard enough; the gentle, shallow water hadn’t tried hard enough either, it had bobbed her back up again and offered no helpful current. Perhaps, like the water, she was just too kind – it was kinder for everyone if she lived, wasn’t it? All life, even a life as unimportant as hers, performed some kindness to those it touched; wouldn’t her husband, if no one else, appreciate this kindness? Or perhaps that was just vanity – she hadn’t destroyed the note, but had smoothed it into their diary on the kitchen table, as one might a shopping list, or a love letter, or a poem; but Patrick had never noticed it, because he didn’t make appointments, she supposed. She eventually screwed it up and put it into the recycling box, which Patrick did take care of, judiciously separating paper, glass and plastic. He still didn’t see it – or if he did, he saw it as just another piece of paper. Patrick, ironically for a medical professional whose job is to observe, seems to see very little indeed, at least when it comes to her. He persistently mistakes her for someone better than she is, as though his gaze stops just short of her. He frequently expresses his love for her, but the truth is that he doesn’t know her very well, and she is sure that should he need to fill out a missing persons form, he would be distressed to realize that he doesn’t know her height, her weight, her dress size. He would possibly even be unsure of her exact age and birthday. Although he would probably get her hair and eyes right, as she has the same hair and eyes as almost every woman of Bengali descent. She imagines him filling out this part of the form with confidence, with relief, even; hair: black, eyes: brown.She didn’t leave a note this time, as she has no idea what she would have put in it; apart from saying that she had left, but her absence would do this anyway. Wouldn’t it? Was it possible that Patrick would come home and go to work and come home and go to work and not notice until the weekend that she was missing, assuming that she was out shopping or working late in the faculty library, especially as she has recently been in the business of avoiding him in order to steer clear of the difficult conversation about babies that he seems so intent on pursuing. Was she wrong in assuming that her absence would be more noticeable than her presence? They live parallel, independent lives, and have always done so; he complains that even when she’s in, she’s out. When at home she supposes that she is not much more than a small creature curled indifferently on the sofa or in the bath or in the corner of the bed, scrawling in her notebooks with a quiet persistent scratching, working on her laptop with a quiet persistent tapping, but otherwise barely there, without a height or a weight or a dress size worth recalling.
She supposes that such a note should say the truth about why she is leaving, but there is no larger truth. There is nothing significant. There is no Big Important Question to be answered. She has not had an affair, she is not in trouble with the law or in debt, she does not hate him or dislike him at all: like most couples, they fight and bicker all the time, about the ridiculous minutiae of their shared life; who last loaded the dishwasher, and where the toilet roll should be stored. They argue about her refusal, thus far, to consider pregnancy and whether to spend Christmas with the in-laws. There is really nothing but the trivial problems of the everyday, and to other people she looks like nothing so much as an ordinary woman, recently married, as yet childless, with ordinary cares. She looks like this even to herself, on occasion; an ordinary woman, in an ordinary life, wondering why she has striven to be ordinary above everything else. Perhaps she expected it would bring her peace of mind, bringing together the pieces of mind that still inhabit her, their little voices whining inside like shards of glass waiting to pierce through her skin and reveal how sliced up and fragmented she has secretly been within herself, for such a long time. The only thing that currently makes her more than ordinary, extraordinary even, is that she has written and recycled a suicide note, without anyone in the world noticing, and that she has decided to stop fighting, and go home.The funny thing, laugh-out-loud funny when she dwells on it, is that she didn’t say those words in an earnest discussion with her husband, they weren’t advised her by a mother or a friend or a therapist or a lover. The words simply fell out of a book she had been skim-reading over breakfast that had some relevance to her research; fell out almost as casually as a child’s gift from a cereal packet, or junk mail from her morning newspaper. It was a comment between one prodigal son and another, unwilling opponents in a bloody conflict. And as she read it, she thought, OK then. Like a switch had been gently flicked in her head, and she had finally been prompted into action; leaving the breakfast table, dressing carelessly and rather too lightly for the British weather, and taking her handbag. She had put her passport in and taken her keys out, feeling a weight fall from her as she let them tumble onto the glass table in the hall with a musical tinkle. She had breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of them as she shut the door behind her. How easy it was, ridiculously easy, to leave. She suddenly felt so free that she really did laugh out loud, and stopped herself abruptly in case the neighbours heard. It was important to her that she didn’t seem mad, that she didn’t leave the house in her dressing gown, that she wasn’t seen laughing or muttering to herself or crying in the streets; she felt that if she ever let her little bit of insanity out, she might never contain it again, like a wild thing set free. She hadn’t laughed because she was mad, she had laughed because some random words written long ago by a stranger had spoken to her, and she had unaccountably given them the importance of a prophecy. Her keys left on the table were her proof – she wouldn’t be coming back this time.Aruna only makes it as far as the cafe on the corner, when she starts to have doubts. It is her reflection in the glass that stops her; she sees herself in her summer jacket and sandals, on a blustery spring day, dressed for the weather of the place she is going to, rather than the place she is leaving. She realizes that although she has dressed, she has not washed her face, brushed her teeth, or combed her hair, which crackles with artless tangles and stands away from her face. She has a feverish flush, and she is sure that she can see that bright glint of madness in her eyes that she has worked so hard to suppress. Her disguise of jeans and a T-shirt isn’t working as well as it might – instead of having the invisibility of a Gap ad, she feels as transparently out of place as a bag lady in a ball gown. Perhaps she should have just gone out in her dressing gown after all, because then someone kind would have seen her for what she is, seen her glassy eyes and wild hair, and escorted her back to her flat (not to her home, she never calls the flat home, she just calls it the flat, or occasionally, when she is speaking to American colleagues at her faculty, the apartment). Perhaps this good Samaritan whom she will now never meet, whom she unaccountably regrets not meeting, would have made her a fresh cup of tea, and then tucked her back in bed like an invalid. Her reflection nods at her knowingly – she is acting irresponsibly again. The reflection seems a little too knowing in fact, as though it is no longer connected to her, and imitates her gestures in mockery rather than by necessity; she waves at it tentatively to check that it will wave too. She is taken aback when a figure inside the cafe comes up to the glass, and waves back instead. ‘Hi Aruna, nice of you to stop by,’ says Syed, the cafe owner, coming across to his open doorway, sipping from a cup of coffee that lets off little wisps of steam into the cool air. Aruna says nothing for a moment, stunned at how easily real life has invaded her again, someone waving to her and naming her, mistakenly thinking that she was greeting them from outside their window. She is unsure whether there is an edge to his voice, a criticism, something that implies she doesn’t stop by often enough.
‘Hi Sy,’ she says eventually, hiding her hostility behind apologetic guilt, as though she really has failed to fulfil some mysterious etiquette regarding the acceptable frequency of attending one’s local cafe. Everything makes her feel vaguely on guard, even a casual greeting from a shopkeeper she barely knows.
‘Your hubby stopped by this morning too. Picked up his coffee on the way to work. He told me that I was drinking too much of the stuff, can you believe? I said to him, I said, “Patrick, mate, I wouldn’t trust a bald hair-dresser, I wouldn’t trust a skinny chef, and I wouldn’t trust a cafe owner who doesn’t drink his own coffee.” ’
Aruna says nothing; her eyes have drifted back to her reflection, and Syed, who is old enough to be her father, asks almost kindly, ‘Are you coming in then?’ There is no edge to his voice after all, just a touch of impatience, as though she is a dawdling child in need of a little push. Aruna is unable to say no, as that would involve explaining why, and so she nods and drifts in, and takes the seat near the window.
‘So, coffee?’ suggests Syed, ‘I’ve got the fair trade stuff that you guys like. Americano for you, isn’t it?’
‘OK,’ says Aruna, aware as she says it how ungracious she sounds, as though she is doing him a favour. ‘I mean, please.’ She sips the coffee when he brings it over, making an appreciative noise at odds with how she really feels.
‘And how’s the family?’ asks Syed politely. Aruna smiles back, just as politely; she has no family, apart from Patrick, and it strikes her as funny that Syed doesn’t know this. She is relieved that he doesn’t know that much about her after all, perhaps her disguise is still intact.
‘Oh, we’re all fine. How about yours?’ she asks.
‘Fine too. My wife went away for the weekend with her girlfriends. Went to Madrid, and complained about how some overpriced restaurant she went to was run by Pakistanis rather than Spaniards. As though we weren’t Pakis ourselves. Funny how bigoted she gets when she goes abroad. She expects London to be cosmopolitan but the rest of Europe to be lily white.’
‘I didn’t know you were from Pakistan,’ says Aruna, stirring her coffee.
‘Where did you think I was from, with a name like Syed?’ he asks.
‘I don’t know. Here, I guess. I just thought you were English.’
‘So, where are you from?’ asks Syed, cleaning out the filters, just making conversation. Another couple of customers come in and start examining the chalkboard menu hung on the cafe wall.
‘Singapore,’ says Aruna, ‘But my parents were from the Bengal.’ She has another sip of coffee, and realizes that she has to leave, before she gets sucked back into her ordinary life, before she calls a locksmith and gets herself let back into her flat, where she will finish her cold porridge, load the dishwasher (it is her turn, her husband reminded her this morning, trying not to nag, but not quite succeeding) and have a shower. ‘I’ll leave you to it,’ she says, going up to the till and handing over her change.
Excerpted from Half Life by .
Copyright © 2010 by Roopa Farooki.
Published in May 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Continues...

Excerpted from Half Life by Roopa Farooki Copyright © 2010 by Roopa Farooki. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

About the Book

On the morning that changes everything, Aruna Ahmed Jones walks out of her ground-floor Victorian apartment in London wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, carrying nothing more substantial than a handbag, and keeps on walking.  Leaving behind the handsome Dr. Patrick Jones, her husband of less than a year, Aruna heads to Heathrow, where she boards a plane bound for Singapore and her old life.  Educated and beautiful, Aruna has a desperate need to risk it all.  But why?  Waiting for her is a messy past and a perfect past lover she had once abandoned without even saying goodbye – a story left unfinished – until now.

Aruna is not running away from home, she is running back to the home she always had, before it became impossible for her to stay.  Before her father, the only family she’d ever known, passed away.  Before she tried, and failed, to create a life and a family with her best friend and lover, Jazz.  Before her doctor delivered a complicated psychological diagnosis she’d rather forget.  After years of fleeing the ghosts that continue to haunt her, Aruna is about to discover that running away is really the easy part; it is coming home—making peace with her past, with Jazz and those they have loved—that is hard.  Spanning the world from London to Singapore to India and back again, Half Life is a richly layered tale of love and conflict, friendship and sacrifice, the luminous story of a young woman who risks everything in order to find where she truly belongs.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A terrific character study

    In London, Bengali expatriate Dr. Aruna Ahmed Jones married British Dr. Patrick Jones on the rebound from her failed romance with long time friend Ejaz "Jazz" Ahsan. In fact she fled Singapore's Little India to escape her past that included her father's death, drug addiction, miscarriages and a psychological determination that she is bi-polar. Now less than a year with kind handsome Patrick, she reads Jazz's father Bengali writer Hari Hassam's note to a friend during the 1971 East and West Pakistan war: "It's time to stop fighting, and go home." Aruna agrees that it is time for her to stop fighting her ghosts and go home to confront them.

    While she returns to Singapore, her inspiration lies dying in Kuala Lumpur General Hospital in Malaysia. Aruna knows she must confront Jazz and their past if she is to move forward with him or with Patrick who she expects will not welcome her back.

    This terrific character study contains two discerning subplots as readers follow Aruna's efforts to cleanse her mind from her self-imposed demons that force her into a Half Life and Haris' death count vigil. Both are well written and nicely converge as the audience obtains insight into the Bengali culture living in Southeast Asia and London through this pair and others. Roopa Farooki provides a strong drama as Aruna learns that though Thomas Wolff is right that "you can't go home", Hari is also correct as sometimes you have no choice but to go home.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

    Lexa

    Heyy

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

    Rhett

    Waits

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 1, 2013

    I decided to give this a 3 because it did have a moderately comp

    I decided to give this a 3 because it did have a moderately compelling storyline. I was not overly intrigued until I was over halfway thought it. I liked the fact that the author used a lot of flashback to keep the suspense going. What I did not like was all the present tense verbs that were indiscriminately used at odd times. I doubt I would read much else by this author. I did not like how abruptly it ended. I do not expect that all loose ends are to be tied up at the end, but I believe there does need to be closure. And I didn't really sense this with this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2010

    talented story teller

    Sorrowful. Gripping. Roller coaster of emotions. I was dissapointed when the story ended because I wanted more answers but the tale of these star crossed lovers was tender and real. You can feel the emotions of Jazz and Rooney as they struggle to confront their harsh realities.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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