4 stars review from the poet, author and consulting educationist Bob DCosta.
If you have not read Masks, you should read it, and if you have read it, you should make sure to read it again, for when can a journey be filled with more experience than what the author, Nataly Restokian has gone through. In this debut novel, the Lebanon-born author details the life of Anna, the protagonist as she moves in a world of glamor and materialism. But deep within, Anna is fighting her own demons. She walks the path alone, disappointing her parents whose society demands social, religious and sexual taboos. Once on her own, Anna’s determination salutes her as opportunities unroll their red carpet for her and very soon she is in the world of Arab celebrities where she too tastes the wine of success. But is this what she actually desires? Is this what her soul invokes her? Though a public figure by now and fame and money is what she is dressed in, the protagonist’s soul pines to end her plastic smiles and sexual adventures and all the misery it brings along at the end of the day. Anna finds solace in her aunt Araxi’s house where the aged lady’s lifestyle is fashioned with the barest minimum.
Anna occasionally delves into her childhood in the war-torn surrounding of Lebanon with her parents making every endeavor to make a living by selling bread on the dreaded city street. Then there is the one-roomed house with innumerable people staying together, this room being a hall room, dining room, bathroom and bedroom all squashed into one. These memories get hold of her every now before making a permanent vision floating in her mind. A line that stands out is:
No one can finish the race for me, Anna thought. I must run on my own. I might fall, but nothing will keep me down.
Very soon a total stranger appears in Anna’s world and she realizes her deep love for this man. With his unconditional love, she understands her universe of glamor and materialism is just a method of temporary escape from her real world of love and serenity. She doesn’t mind living with this man, “Even in a hut,” when he had declared that in his life he neither has fame, name nor glamor.
The events of Masks appear clear in the mind as if one is watching a film. The language too is simple and lucid. Moreover, the flashbacks help a reader to comprehend the reason behind Anna’s outlook towards her present life.
The story laced with happiness, suffering, and anger (which we all have faced and will face in the near future), add to the ultimate beauty of the story, the story that will touch the reader’s heart. Every story has a message and the message here is not to forget our past, to be respectful and modest to all that we have faced and the life of struggle we have gone through at our early formative years. And if we believe in ourselves, our future will be filled with love and understanding.
Bob DCosta is a poet, author and consulting educationist with several fiction, non-fiction and books of poems to his name. He is a member of the Federation Of SAARC Writers And Literature (FOSWAL), the SAARC Apex Body. He is the owner and founder of Whatabook.