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Our Tainted Souls

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Book Review

Writing prose requires dedication and commitment. Each word that an author writes needs to be evaluated in the mind before putting on paper. Minaal Mohsin Maan, an aspiring writer from Lahore, has carved out a story from her thoughts. Our Tainted Souls, her debut book, is a story that presents to us the innate feelings of our society. There is a myriad of emotions presented through the characters that bring realism to her narrative.
Minaal, a freelance contributor and currently in her BBA (final year), has penned a story that will send readers into introspection. Her two main characters are Ahmed and Seher. They belong to two different parts of society. It is in their contrasting demographics and ideologies that they find a common foundation to stand on to explore each other’s life. Ahmed belongs to the upper class who has all the luxuries and necessities of life. Seher, on the other hand, resides in the fictional village of Zaleemabad, situated near Lahore.
The book that is available on digital platforms dwells on the life of Ahmed and Seher as they find meaning in their lives. An air of curiosity prevails as the readers move from one page to the other. They tend to find the reason why Ahmed and Seher meet. However, Minaal has it covered. Being an aspiring writer, she keeps the curiosity of the readers alive. The dialogues and the narration keeps the readers’ thoughts etched on the story. Furthermore, readers’ attention develops or fades away by how the authors pen down thoughts. Minaal can create sentences that resonate in the minds.
At one point in the novel she writes while talking about Seher, “The small room that she shared with her parents, brother and sister was dark, the only source of light is the occasional clap of lightning outside. She watched, almost dazedly as the makeshift curtain that marked the entrance swayed back and forth as if propelled by an invisible force.” Minaal, in another part of the novel, writes about how a random child at the park creates a ruckus that attracts Ahmed’s attention. She writes, “But the child had scrunched her eyebrows together and crossed her arms. In the end, her mother had carried her out while she had bawled her heart out for the whole park to hear. ”
Our Tainted Soul begins smoothly and continues to connect the dots. The readers learn more about the characters’ intentions from the flashbacks Minaal places here and there in the story. They are linked flawlessly with the present moment. Interestingly, the story has more narration. It presents a holistic view of the story and about the characters’ lives. Minaal, therefore, uses a simple writing strategy. She writes a character-driven story where the actions speak louder than words. It seems as if Ahmed and Seher are telling their respective stories that help the readers to view them as real characters. This seems easy, however, it requires effort from the author.
Minaal writes the entire novel with the same simplicity in words and narration as with which she begins it. This is how she opens the first chapter: “He was a monster. Today was one of those days when he felt as if he was corrupting the very air around him, and it had nothing to do with the acrid smoke that he was expelling through his lips. He felt like he was destroying everything around him because of the thoughts that were running through his head, and the opinions he held about the world after twenty-three years of being stuck in the battle that was his life.”
When commenting on the message she wants to give through her novel, Minaal said, “The message that I am hoping readers will get is that no matter what happens or has happened, it is never too late to change into something better, to do what you think is right and to pursue what you actually believe in. We are all at some level programmed to think in a certain way because of the society we live in, but that way is not always right. It is okay to be different.”