The Other Shore

Ordinary People Grappling with Extraordinary Challenges

Fiction - Womens
353 Pages
Reviewed on 05/06/2021
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Madhu Bazaz Wangu Ph.D. has a doctoral degree in the Phenomenology of World Religions. The founder of Mindful Writers Groups and Retreats, she has won awards for her fiction by Writer’s Digest, Readers Favorite, Indie Excellence and TAZ Awards. She inspires novice as well as professional writers to become better writers and authentic human beings. She uses time honored disciplines such as meditation, journaling and walking in her daily routine. On her Online Mindful Writers Group (OMWG) she shares personal anecdotes, scientific evidence, and ancient tales, myths and legends. The posts provide tools and methods for self-awareness and mindfulness. Her guests are award winning writers who share their own obstacles and struggles, trial and tribulations and also to celebrate the gratification and joy that writing life offers.
Madhu’s own writing journey has won her Pennwriters 2020 Meritorious Award. Her interview inaugurated the 2020 International Indo-American Literary Festival. A Featured Author at Beaver County Book Fest in 2017 she regularly presents workshops at Pennwriters Annual Conferences.
Her guided meditation CDs inspire writers to delve deeper into their creative self. These include, “Meditations for Mindful Writers: Body, Heart, Mind,” (2011); “Meditations for Mindful Writers II: Sensations, Feelings, Thoughts,” (2017); and “Meditations for Mindful Writers III: Gratitude, Generosity, Self-Compassion, Trust” (2019) The meditations enhance attention and imagination, hone self-awareness and increase productivity. These are available at: https://bit.ly/3kDRt4U

WEBSITE: https://www.madhubazazwangu.com
ONLINE MINDFUL WRITERS GROUP: https://tinyurl.com/MindfulWriters
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite

The Other Shore is a medley of twenty short stories penned by Madhu Bazaz Wangu. The stories belong to and are arranged according to their primary genres, spanning magical realism, inspirational, women’s fiction, and romance. Some stories are spiritual, based on divine characters, while others narrate the life stories of a few ordinary people. A medical student forges a unique connection with nature that makes her alter the course of her life. In another story, a small bird rejuvenates an ailing character. Somewhere else, a newly married woman is forced to choose death over a tormented life among her in-laws. In another story, a couple rediscovers their love when faced with a natural calamity. Some stories underscore the amalgamation of different cultures and religions.

Each story resembled a precious jewel, unique in its beautiful appearance while reflecting underlining nuances upon close perusal. I was amazed at the versatility of the genres, especially since Madhu Bazaz Wangu proved to be equally masterful in all of them. The Other Shore held special appeal to me because, being Indian myself, I could relate to the cultural and social aspects mentioned here. “The Dowry Brides” discussed the abhorrent yet still prevalent practices of dowry and bride-burning. “Beggar Woman” and “Revenge” authentically reflected the plight of the poor and uneducated people. In contrast, the magical realism stories exuded a blissful, soothing vibe. Accepting the loss of a loved one and overcoming the resultant grief served as a common theme in a few tales. Also, “Unfulfilled Dream” and “The Blackened Mirror” highlighted the importance of realizing one’s true self and following one’s heart. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking for an uplifting and enriching read.

Vincent Dublado

Twenty stories are told under six different themes that fuse art, spirituality, and existential angst. Madhu Bazaz Wangu, by her own account, reveals that she has written The Other Shore: Ordinary People Grappling with Extraordinary Challenges because she wants you, as the reader, to grow intellectually and be emotionally touched by her tales. Her stories bridge inner and outer realities: the reality of what we say and what we think and feel. The women in this book are remarkably spirited and the men exist to find out more about themselves. The Other Shore tells the story of Mohini and how the seasons she spent with her grandparents have filled her heart with their love. In Dowry Brides, a feature story about a dowry demand makes a narrator angry and inspired at the same time. Chance Acquaintance tells about a friendship that develops between a Japanese professor and his Indian tour guide. And then there is Unrequited Love, about a man who cannot marry the woman he loves because he is taking care of his ailing mother full time.

The Other Shore showers you with aesthetic pleasures by allowing you to examine the cross-cultural experience. Madhu Bazaz Wangu’s tales are filled with physically vigorous and mentally vital moments that exist in the now. Her narration has strong leanings in establishing identity, and her conversational style makes you feel relaxed as if you are getting acquainted with the characters face to face. I cannot help but feel moved by the story of Unrequited Love, as the theme profoundly illustrates one typical problem that arises among close-knit Asian families. There is always a striking point in all of these twenty stories where Wangu seems adept at scrutinizing the role of women in contemporary society. In the end, it is difficult not to feel moved or affected after reading these stories.

Mamta Madhavan

The Other Shore: Ordinary People Grappling with Extraordinary Challenges by Madhu Bazaz Wangu is a collection of twenty stories that tackle diverse themes associated with the human heart, emotions, harmony with nature, and the search for life's meaning and purpose. The stories have been classified under six sections: Magical Realism, Women's Fiction, Multi-cultural, Old Fashioned Romance, Inspirational, and Fear of Death. The stories hover between the realms of fantasy and reality and other fascinating concepts as the author takes readers through the journey of life, and how it can be enjoyed by living in the present moment and embracing wholeheartedly the different experiences of people they meet during various phases of their lives.

The stories expose readers to different types of characters that are not only from India but also around the globe, Indians living in the US, and their American friends. The narration and the language are exquisite and they transport readers into another realm as they deal with the nuances, complexities, and intricacies surrounding life. I enjoyed the story 'Tree Talk'  a lot for the manner in which the author blends human emotions with nature seamlessly, making readers aware of how Mother Earth is a whole organism of which humankind is just one functional part. All the stories have their own charm in the way they deal with characters and the plot and leave readers fulfilled by the underlying spiritual tones where there is wisdom and kindness. Each story has a different theme and they make readers perceive the vagaries of life in many different ways. The characters and the stories are real and relatable. On the whole, The Other Shore by Madhu Bazaz Wangu is an excellent collection of stories that delve into various aspects and emotions of life.

Jose Cornelio

The Other Shore: Ordinary People Grappling with Extraordinary Challenges by Madhu Bazaz Wangu is a collection of short stories with an appeal to readers with different tastes — Magical Realism, Women’s Fiction, Multi-cultural, Romance, and Inspirational. Told in varying and gripping voices, the stories feature interesting characters in different situations as they navigate through real-life situations, grappling with realities of death, love, protecting nature, making a difference, being human, and more.

While we might not have the space to go through each of the stories in this review, there are characters that will capture the attention of readers like ten-year-old Mohini who has a strong relationship with her grandparents. This relationship leads her to appreciate the cycle of life and to learn lessons that follow her as she grows up and attends college. The truth that we all must walk alone for our final journey hits her powerfully. Valakya has a vivid dream as a young man and follows a path that will change not just his life but that of many, and he eventually finds solace in the thought that the way one lives is the way one dies, a lesson of many decades. There are many such stories with life lessons.

Each story features strong and well-developed themes, from death to spiritual awakening, from protecting nature to falling in love. The writing is crisp and descriptive and Madhu Bazaz Wangu shifts between the first-person and third-person narrative voices, employing a storytelling skill that keeps the reader with the character and experiencing many “Wow” moments at some of the revelatory passages. The author uses dreams to communicate themes of magical realism, creating a link between the visible and the invisible, while creating spaces where characters can pursue their deepest desires. These short stories are cleverly plotted, each written in a unique manner and with a strong voice, each conveying a strong message to the reader. The characters are real and fleshed out and readers can easily find themselves in them. The Other Shore will entertain readers and invite them to ponder on some of the realities of life.

Christian Sia

The Other Shore: Ordinary People Grappling with Extraordinary Challenges by Madhu Bazaz Wangu is an anthology of short stories, an engaging collection, indeed. Readers will encounter well-developed characters as they navigate the challenges of life, trying to understand the world around them and how it works, like Mohini in “The Other Shore.” There is the story of Man and Woman in which Woman follows Man on his wanderlust and wonderment in “Magic Box,” watched and commented on by the gods. “Cadmium and Crimson” is the tale of a dream that would change the community. In “Silence Heard,” Madhuri wants to befriend silence and surround himself with noiselessness, but her journey is one that will surprise her and readers. Each story is unique, told in a style that is engaging and in a captivating voice, brimming with insights about life.

Madhu Bazaz Wangu has an observant and highly descriptive style of writing, exploring the spiritual and human depths of the characters. The themes of nature, work, romance, family, religion, personal development, education, and climate change are well-written in the stories, and while they are entertaining, they are inspirational, too. The themes of death, “the other shore,” and finding purpose are predominant, and I enjoyed how the author explores the nature of the characters, their deepest longings, and the way they relate to other characters in the stories. This author has the gift of creating stories in settings that are well-imagined and plot points that are strong. The Other Shore: Ordinary People Grappling with Extraordinary Challenges is a gorgeous offering for short story fans, written in beautiful language and exploring topics that are thought-provoking.