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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Earnest Hemingway once said: “All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” Perhaps Basant Raj, author of When Love Calls, feels likewise. It is obvious this is an author who loves the power of words: he enjoys working with them, seeing what pictures he can draw, what plots he can weave, and what characters he can create. And as he writes, he also uses words to clearly communicate his outlook and philosophy on life, societies, and cultures. Furthermore, Basant Raj delights in the opportunity to share with the reader his vast knowledge of worlds many of us have never experienced, but of which, these days, thanks to the media, we are often uncomfortably aware. Yes, he does all of these things in When Love Calls.
Lesser skilled writers who dare to do all that in one novel risk the reader’s wrath. But Basant Raj is a consummate wordsmith and those who are patient and intelligent will enjoy his approach. He is also a total romantic who loves happy endings. So when the star-crossed young lovers, Amira and Rahul, are reunited years after illegitimately conceiving their daughter, Riva, this author knows what readers want: they want to see the couple together again. But religious, social, cultural and political issues create obstacles the young Riva would never dream could keep her parents and her apart.
In When Love Calls, readers meet good and evil in many forms. Basant Raj shows us how young Muslim men are groomed and prepared for their ultimate glory by becoming suicide bombers. He reminds us that these religious fanatics have mothers whose hearts break knowing their sons will die serving Allah, but who recognize it is their duty to let them go, coupled with the danger of not doing so. He presents the conflict a trained terrorist faces when suddenly realizing the person he is sent to kill is one who previously saved his life. And he creates mounting tension in us as we watch a master terrorist’s deadly plans for One World Trade Center unfold. In the meantime, Joseph, Rahul’s driver in Kenya, is puzzled by this Catholic priest who can love his enemies when he himself can’t. In turn, Rahul is intrigued by how a family, where one man has several wives, can function happily. And as he spends time with them, Rahul is increasingly reminded that living somewhere on the other side of the world are the woman and daughter he loves, but cannot be with because of his vows.
As mentioned above, Basant Raj loves the power of words to create pictures. Many of the chapters open with elaborate descriptions of the settings as he moves the reader from location to location, ever mindful of how settings, weather, and emotions are intricately connected. As he does this, the settings themselves almost become characters. This is skillful writing in the more traditional approach. Some readers may find the author’s ruminations on the differences in attitudes toward education unnecessary to the story, but Basant Raj’s thoughts do make one stop and think. In fact, there are many issues raised by Basant Raj in When Love Calls. The book may be categorized as romantic fiction, but it’s really thinker’s fiction.