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BOOK REVIEW - "The Man without Shelter" by Indrajit Garai

Updated: Jun 12, 2023


blog post cover, pink and blue, Paris bridge

Hello friends! I'm back with another book review for today. I recently had the honor of getting to read "The Man without Shelter" by Indrajit Garai. Read on for my honest thoughts and review of this thought-provoking novella (and watch out for spoilers). 😉



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ABOUT THE BOOK


the man without shelter brown book cover

Lucy, a young lawyer, is on fast track to partnership in her firm.


Arnault, a convicted felon, leaves prison after two decades through a piece of evidence in his favor.


The two of them come together during a rescue operation at the centre of Paris, and then they go on with their separate lives.


Months later, their paths cross again at a camp for migrants on the edge of Paris.








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MY REVIEW


RATING: ★★★☆ ☆

This book surprised me. The concept is brilliant, and while I have a few issues with the story, it turned out to be a very interesting and engaging read. I did end up docking two stars, which I'll give reasons for in the rest of my review, but the story raised important questions that made me think.



THEMES & MESSAGES

I loved the themes in this story. Messages of honesty and integrity were a central aspect, as well as the dangers of a poverty mindset, kindness, selflessness, standing up for what's right, protecting the vulnerable, and free choice.


The themes are well crafted and each character contributed to the overarching message of walking with honesty and kindness in the midst of suffering. However, many of the themes and emotions were explained rather than shown. Because of this, the messages came off sounding blunt and political instead of being woven in and left to the reader's interpretation.


I appreciated each of the messages, and I agreed with what the author was trying to communicate. The way it was written, however, began to sound more like a textbook or a novel outline than a story.



CHARACTERS

ARNAULT: Okay, I loved Arnault. Toward the beginning of the story, I had trouble grasping who Arnault actually was and what emotions he was feeling. It felt like his emotions were told to me instead of shown, and he seemed numb to his circumstances. Perhaps this was a result of him spending so much time in jail. Regardless, he was not a relatable character for about two chapters in. Once his backstory was brought in, however, Arnault came alive as a character! I greatly admired his bravery and integrity despite all he'd gone through. He was such a kind and gentle person, while still being internally conflicted. I also love how he achieved his goal at the end of the story. Overall, a great protagonist, and I enjoyed immersing myself in his perspective.


LUCY: I admired Lucy for her desire for truth and her compassion towards Arnault. Her character voice was very distinct and perfect for someone who works in Law. However, she came off as abrasive and emotionless. I couldn't grasp what she was feeling, or what she believed. At some moments, she was sweet and thoughtful, and at others, she was blunt and rude. I couldn't figure her out! I also disliked the way she treated her parents when no reason was given for her disrespect. She seemed like a decisive character, but whenever Marc came along, her morals went out the window despite the countless red flags that her Law partner raised.


The side characters were all interesting. I especially loved Zaya. Marc and Imayus were definitely my least favorites. They both made me boil with frustration (being the antagonists they were), but I love how Garai contrasted them with Arnault's personality. The swans were adorable. I loved their interactions with Arnault so much (and yes, I'm totally counting them as characters).


Character dynamics were almost non-existent because the plot skipped over the development of friendships and relationships. I never felt an emotional connection with any of the character interactions because everything was explained to me rather than shown. There was barely any dialogue because the narrative explained what the characters said to one another. I especially felt this way with Arnault and Zaya's friendship and with Marc and Lucy's romantic affair.



WRITING STYLE

Garai has a very unique and compelling writing style. This story had a literary touch to it, which I enjoyed quite a bit. The prose had a formal, cerebral, and lilting tone that reminded me a bit of C.S. Lewis. The descriptions were also beautiful.


My biggest problem with the writing style, however, was the information dumps. I felt constantly bombarded with political and industrial facts that I did not need. Instead of being woven throughout and painted with body language and voice, the emotions were directly stated... or not communicated at all. Because of the lack of emotion, many parts felt rather preachy, blunt, and on the nose.


Despite a slightly disjointed plot and some narrative threads left unresolved, this story resembled a murder mystery in many ways, which I loved. The use of suspense was also fantastic and kept me engaged.



SPIRITUAL ASPECTS

None. God was not mentioned, but aspects of the story shared a Christian worldview.



VIOLENCE

Gangs roamed the streets of Paris, using violence and brutality to manipulate others and make money. Sexual violence and trafficking are mentioned but never described.


Lucy is attacked at an ATM machine by two weaponized men. Arnault witnesses these events and comes to her rescue. The criminals are hit unconscious and Arnault is left with a slashed and bloody face from a knife wound.


Arnault experienced flashbacks from a defining event in his past. When trying to protect a woman from vagrants, Arnault is knocked unconscious. The woman's throat is slit, and Arnault is accused of her murder.



SEXUAL CONTENT & ROMANCE

Human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children were prevalent. Predators and pimps roamed the streets, and many migrants are sucked into the business, including Zaya's brother. Details are minimal.


Lucy and Marc are partners in their Law Firm and had a romantic relationship at the beginning of the story. It's clear that they slept together. They're not married. This was the most disappointing part of the novella and a major reason why I docked a star. This was not portrayed as wrong. In fact, Lucy's parents seemed completely fine and proud of what their daughter was doing.


When Marc discovered that Lucy found one of his secret files, he immediately ends the relationship. It annoyed me how Lucy was blind to the fact that Marc was using her, and immediately runs to him even after the breakup. She bulldozed through red flags and seemed eager to be with him despite the ways he misused her. The narrative told me that Lucy was madly in love with Marc, but because I could never sympathize with her, I had no emotional investment in their relationship.



LANGUAGE & PROFANITY

None that I was aware of. *Applauds*



DRUG & ALCOHOL CONTENT

Many homeless utilized alcohol in an attempt to drown their problems. While briefly mentioned, the gangs and traffickers were involved in drug dealing.



WRAP UP

Overall, I enjoyed this story. The concept brings up many excellent narrative and thematic questions. My biggest issue is with the information-heavy writing, inconsistent plot, and sexual content, which was jarring to read. On a positive note, Arnault was a wonderful character, and this story had a literary style to it, which made for a thoughtful reading experience.




FAVORITE QUOTES

"The public gave up watching their favorite series on television. What they were getting from these real actors, in real time play of real actions and events, turned out to be far more exciting than what they usually got from their favored series as fiction."
"Once more, he was giving up a home he had known for three moths, to find shelter in some place unknown."

― Indrajit Garai, The Man without Shelter



DISCLAIMER: I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


indrajit garai author image

Indrajit Garai, an American citizen now, was born in India in 1965. After his Bachelors degree from Indian Institute of Technology and Masters from Harvard, he worked as a corporate strategy consultant and as an investment banker in America, Spain, and England, while studying parallelly Ayurveda (ancient medicine of India) for stress management. In 2001, after the birth of his daughter, he moved to Paris, opened his private practice of stress management, and then authored six books in this field (five in French and one in English).


Authoring these books on stress management gave him a deep love for writing. Since 2015, he has devoted himself full-time to creating literature.







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LET'S TALK

What are your thoughts? Have you read this novella before? Do you like murder mysteries? Are you excited for summer (I'm so excited I can barely contain it XD)? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!




Now go change the world,

-Ava



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2 Comments


Saraina Whitney
Saraina Whitney
Jun 09, 2023

You did an awesome job with this review, Ava!! It's so balanced and well-written! I definitely like murder mysteries, and yesss, I'm so excited for summer! (Sad that spring is going, of course, but...I may as well embrace summer because it definitely feels like it right now XDD)

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Ava Hope
Ava Hope
Jun 14, 2023
Replying to

Aww thank you, Saraina!! ❤️ Yess! Same here XDD

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