Friday, October 25, 2013
Title : Same Sun Here
Author : Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Publisher : Candlewick Press
Letters convey much more than just some written words; they carry hope, support, a trusted shoulder, a jubilant heart to share happiness and a tender hand to wipe one's tears.
Twelve-year old, Meena Joshi, a recent immigrant from India lives with her family in Manhattan's Chinatown. As a part of her school assignment, she picks River Dean Justice as her pen pal to write a letter to. River is the son of a Kentucky coal miner. The book begins with the first letter that Meena writes to River, hoping to get a reply from him. And thus begins the journey of sharing, discovering, confiding, confessing and forming a wonderful friendship through letters back and forth. The two different worlds meet at a new place as the same sun nurtures and watches over them from high above.
They both have a lot in common - their fathers working away from home, their grandmothers as their best pals in the world, presence of a faithful pet in their lives and most importantly the common thread of having to create a new world away from the one which they once called their own. They discover common ground at various levels. Their correspondence becomes a dependable support for both of them while they try to tide over some difficult situations in their lives. Meena bears the news of the death of her beloved 'Dadi' (grandmother) in India and the pain of not having been with her as she breathed her last. River witnesses his town being subjected to mountain top removal and her grandmother standing up against it. Meena's family having to live clandestinely with Aunt Lau while Meena's parents prepare to appear for the citizenship exams.
Both the authors have wonderfully etched the characters of Meena and River through the letters. The two friends do not have any qualms sharing their inner thoughts including their longings, yearnings, embarrassing experiences, uncomfortable life situations, vulnerabilities and adolescent issues with each other. Some powerful lessons are weaved into the narrative through lively and innocent voices of two protagonists.
The book ends at a point from where their lives are going to take some significant turns. As both the families gear up to move to another place, hope is what they cling on to despite the uncertainty of the future. In Meena's words, 'I don't know what's coming next, but whatever it is, it will just make me more me.'
The book brings the focus to the wonderful art of letter writing which involves so much more than just jotting some thoughts down. Giving meaningful structure to thoughts, penning them down on paper, anticipation of receiving a letter and waiting for the reply are all such integral part of communicating through letters. Though it feels like a long drawn process in comparison to superfast email exchange, yet the charm of sending and receiving hand-written letters can never be substituted.