Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer by Nilanjana Haldar is a coming of age tale which explores a childhood shaped by violence and regret, friendships and the quiet power of seeking kindness and healing in the face of great adversity.
Beginning with Sanjana and Kriti’s childhood friendship, Haldar introduces a female protagonist who possesses the curiosity of a child but the innate intelligence of an old soul. Through her eyes we see how brutal and beautiful the world is. In this part of the novel, Haldar’s sensory descriptions are captivating as we follow Sanjana and Kriti on their quest to heal Kriti’s father and their mysterious meetings with a man they come to call ‘Granpa’.
However, Haldar also captures the sadness and heartache of loss as Sanjana is displaced in the family’s move from Jalpaiguri to Delhi. On one hand, this part of the novel is a triumph as Haldar balances the angst of growing older with Sanjana’s innocence and desire to do good with what she has. Often, you wish to wrap your arms around Sanjana and whisper how proud you are of her. On the other hand, the transition between this part and the final part was too severe. Consequently, Haldar’s commentary on domestic violence and suicidal ideation felt somewhat trivialised rather than meaningful as both were seemingly swept into Sanjana’s past.
This is where the novel struggles to mirror the strength it has in the beginning. By part three I wondered if Sanjana’s quest to heal others would have read better as a trilogy; as the resolution occurred within the final few chapters with much in the middle which was perhaps unnecessary.
This is not to say Haldar’s resolution is unsatisfactory. There is no denying the reader finds peace with Sanjana as the mysterious moments which have plagued her suddenly make sense. Cleverly, Haldar reveals the threads which have been woven through all three parts and most of the loose ends are tied up. At times it just felt there was too much for one novel to bear and so some of the story became convoluted and other parts felt as if they had been happening for too long with no real bearing on the plot as a whole.
Despite this, the story Haldar chose to tell was no mean feat and her intention to raise awareness and hope around many societal and cultural issues is admirable. Thus, Quiet Screams to a Quiet Healer remains an empowering and enjoyable tale of a young woman I would recommend to young and older readers alike.