“The Unexpected Son” by Shobhan Bantwal

This was the first book I read by Shobhan Bantwal and I must say that I enjoyed her , “The Unexpected Son.” The story begins when a letter written in the old fashioned way, by ordinary mail, is delivered to Vinita Patil who has made the United States her home for the past few decades. In these days of electronic mail, this in itself was an oddity since there weren’t too many people who would write to her like this from India. Her surprise turns rapidly to shock when she reads the letter addressed to her by name by an anonymous well-wisher. The letter, in brief, informs her that her son in India is suffering from leukaemia and is not expected to live much longer. He desperately needs a bone marrow transplant which just might save his life. Vinita is caught up in a maelstrom of feelings. She is forced to remember her past which she wanted to bury behind her. What will her husband Girish have to say if he comes to know about this letter? Or even her daughter? Would they feel cheated that she never told them about her son in all these decades? Would they believe her at all if she said she herself did not know about the existence of this son!

Her mind flashed back to her college days in Palgaum in India. Living in a small town, she was a studious girl and topped her class. Her parents expected her to do well in academics and settle down in marriage with an eligible bachelor of their own community. She had no time for boys or romances of any kind until one day the cricket-loving Som Kori began to flirt with her. He was a notorious playboy, the spoilt son of a wealthy father who was in college to play cricket and take advantage of the many girls who fell for him, or his riches. Vinita told herself that she wasn’t like one of those silly girls. However, one thing led to another and she found herself pregnant in the course of time. Her lover, whom she was sure would marry her, urged her to have an abortion, adding that he would pay for all the costs.

In defiance, Vinita decided to go ahead and have her child, despite the initial violent objections of her immediate family who feared the scandal that would inevitably follow. She was shunted off to Bombay to live with her brother and ultimately delivered a boy there. Sadly, the boy died soon after he was born. Or so she had been told.

She then met and married Girish Patil and left India to live with him as a young bride in the US. Though many times she felt like telling Girish the truth about her past, she baulked at the last moment. As the months and years went by and they were happy together, she stopped thinking about her past afraid that it would shatter her marriage.

Determined to stand by him, a stubborn Vinita manages to find out who her son is and be with him at his time of need. Of all the places, he is her home town. In fact, he is now a lecturer in the same college she and that playboy Kori had studied decades ago. His “parents” don’t know about Vinita or Kori as they had adopted the boy from someone else.

Ms. Bantwal writes beautifully about the emotions that Vinita faces at different periods of the story. Her descriptions of the locales in India and the people there are true to life and captivating. The characters of Vinita and Girish are well sketched, as is that of the coarse Kori.

The author controls the plot extremely well and takes the story to an interesting end. The book being titled, “The Unexpected Son” one does get an unexpected finish! All in all, an interesting read. I look forward to reading more books by Shobhan Bantwal, hoping they  would be as good as this one.

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