Beloved Strangers: A Memoir
“While the story itself is not very unusual, to her credit, the writing is memorable and enjoyable.”
“And it is only now that I see the martyr I have become, setting myself up for sacrifice again and again, at the altar of music, of dance, of love? If I never could hold onto love, or the things I loved, it was only because I was too impatient to snatch at what I thought I needed, too keen to create for myself the ideal scenario. The sweetness of the experience eluded me because I was too busy apprehending its outcome.”
Among Maria Chaudhuri’s childhood memories growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was planning to run away with her friend, Nadia. Happiness in her childhood home was a fleeting experience. Her parents’ unrewarding marriage hung like a pall over the children. Maria’s mother longed for stardom as a vocalist, often shutting herself away in privacy to sing. Her father was distant, unemotional, and condescending.
Maria’s childhood is an endless repetition of prayer and faith consistently lacking redemption. When her father lost his job, the family drifted farther apart. The beautiful home they planned to live in was rented to strangers. The empty emotion simmering for years burst into anger and resentment, later into depression. Throughout, Maria senses the pull of a future long embraced but without form or function. In an effort to escape, Maria pursues her university life in America.
Beloved Strangers is a classic memoir of why children leave home and why they often experience difficulty returning. It’s a dramatic study in relationships desired but unfulfilled, love that remains distant and unproductive sacrifice.
Maria seems to bounce from one relationship into another without emotional reward. She lies upon the platform of hope a future unimagined, affection unreturned and happiness undiscovered. Maria’s past is a catalog of passion unspoken and undone within a family that yields little support or hope. That she comes to recognize her potential is to her credit.
Maria Chaudhuri is an evocative and expressive writer, well adapted to the use of metaphor and drama. While the story itself is not very unusual, to her credit, the writing is memorable and enjoyable. Her concise use of dialogue is an exercise in brevity, but it is no less effective for its concision. Her character development is superb. If anything would enhance the quality of this memoir, it would be pictures, maps or diagrams from her childhood.