Henna for the Broken-Hearted by Sharell Cook

I am an occasional silent reader at Sharell Cook’s blog, and when I found out that she had written a book, it came onto my wish list. A few weeks ago, I managed to lay my hands on the book.

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How far would you go to change your life?

Sharell Cook is 30 years old and living a privileged life in Melbourne’s wealthy suburbs. She has it all: the childhood-sweetheart husband, the high-powered job and plenty of cash to splash.

And it’s not destined to last. Sharell finds herself in a broken marriage, and everything she had taken for granted seems to have changed. Impulsively, she decides to take a break and go to India to do some volunteer work for a few months. Living in Calcutta, a life which was totally different from the time she traveled in India with her ex-husband as a tourist, Sharell grapples with life in India, the frustrations and joys, the unexpected and the normal. She also meets her future husband in India. Reading her book, you start to believe in destiny taking you where you belong.

The book is her memoir of her time in India, the way it changed her, and the way she now leads the urban life of a white Indian housewife. Her journey from what she was, to what she becomes, as she lives in a different culture, which she accepts so open-heartedly. Her transformation, as she calls it. Some of things which even, us, Indians would balk at, she calmly accepts and lives with them. It was fresh take, devoid of the stereotypes one would expect, and without any undue glorification of India either. She writes it as it is, and that in itself is very refreshing.

I loved reading her experiences in India, as she travels through India, lives in various parts, lives a life which is different at the same time, similar to locals. Washing clothes by hand, living through water shortages, temperamental landlords, nosy neighbours, part and parcel of middle class living in India, and accepting it all in a very matter of fact way. I absolutely love her attitude.

What really stands out is the risks she takes, probably because all that she considered familiar had changed after the breakdown of her marriage. The risks she takes in coming back to India, living with the man she would later marry, and her willingness to make the most of her situation, to accept what life has in store for her. It’s not something what most of us would find easy to do. And her attitude towards the changes in her life. Her open-hearted acceptance of the confusion that India can be, and her willingness to be a part of it all.

She literally taker us on her journey, through India, with the wonderful companionship she shares with her husband, and their adventures of various kinds. Living in different parts of India, until they reach the place they end up settling down in – Mumbai. Her husband’s family comes across as such wonderful people, accepting her a part of their family, and doing what it took to get her comfortable. The wonderful bond that she shares with them comes out loud and clear in the book.

If I had to describe the book in a few words, it would – honest and captivating. She keeps the pages turning, you want to know more, and you actually feel sad when it ends. A book I would definitely recommend.

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17 thoughts on “Henna for the Broken-Hearted by Sharell Cook

  1. This sounds really interesting.. Will try and pick it up at the library! Thanks for the review! You should read ‘Bridges’ by Sivasankari, an acclaimed Tamil and English author. ‘Bridges’ was translated from the original ‘Paalangal (meaning ‘Bridges’)’ written by her. Its the story of the lives of 3 different generations of Indian women…. I don’t remember if I told you about this earlier, but its an interesting read πŸ™‚

  2. I loved the sound of the book. I am sure I will like it. This one goes on my wishlist too. πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for the honest review!

    The story sounds similar to that of Eat, Pray, Love. Is it? Have you read it?

    When I first read the premise of the story, I thought it was a typical chick-lit book. Rich woman with a good job and a wonderful marriage, suddenly finds herself in a broken marriage, reinvents her life, moves to another place that is entirely new to her, finds herself all over again, meets her future husband and falls in love, gets married again, finds her soulmate in her husband and feels that she has reached the place where she was meant to be. It felt good to know that this is a real-life story. Very interesting.

    • I have read it, TGND. And to be honest, yes, it does feel similar to Eat, Pray, Love but it feels a lot more honest, and you end up liking/respecting the author far far more. I enjoyed Eat Pray Love a lot too, but this is different in a lot of ways, and more relate-able.

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