Book Review: Tell Her Everything by Mirza Waheed

Book Name: Tell Her Everything

Author: Mirza Waheed

Publisher: Context/ Westland

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3.7/5

Book Blurb: ‘You see, Sara, it had to happen … I couldn’t have prevented it, could I? It could have been anyone, and it was me. It had to happen to someone, and it was me. Think about it. Of all the men in the world, of all the doctors in the world, of all the fathers in the whole world, I happened to be the one present in that place at that time. Someone or the other had to do it. It just so happens that that someone was your dad.’

Where does one draw the line between empathy and sacrifice? Between integrity and survival? Between prosperity and love?

In an unnamed city, a young Indian doctor arrives to make his home and career. It isn’t long before money and success find him, but the price is steep and often unbearable, especially to a wife and daughter who must watch him walk the perilous path of lifelong ambition.

A heartbreaking novel about human ethics, filial love and the corrosive nature of complicity.

Picture Credit: Westland
Picture Credit: Westland

Review: Tell Her Everything is about a Dr. K. who decides to tell everything about his life spent as a doctor to his daughter- Sara.

There are vivid accounts of the doctor’s life in his initial years and like any other immigrant’s tale- it is full of struggle. Like he says:

“We have moved from relative poverty to being a high-income household within my lifetime. Don’t you find that remarkable? I do. You’ll inherit abundance, my dear, not dearth. You’ll be free, not tied to your parents debts and dignity.”

There is an incident at the hospital and one of the close friends of the doctor, Biju loses his job. Biju has been clandestinely selling or smuggling drugs from the hospital. But the doctor has some of his own demons which he must reveal and he frequently provides justification for doing what he did.

The novel is largely a first person account, too abstract and in the nature of the protagonist speaking inside his head mostly. This book is not for everyone and a casual reader won’t even understand what the plot is about.

I think the closest book would be A Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov. I read it as a child and it left a deep impression on me but Bulgakov succeeded because he made it graphic and included vivid accounts of the procedures. Mirza’s account is pretty much the opposite- its passive, abstract and the reader has to keep hoping for the revelations that never come or are not as surprising and dark as promised.

Mirza is a good writer and writes well. There are no flaws in the writing but its simply that the novel fails to deliver what it promises.  

Tell Her Everything however reinforces the grey nature of crime and how circumstances can even force the meek and the best people to take the wrong turn.

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