The Sacrifice: The Listener
Author: Indrajit Garai
Self Published in 2016
Review by Miriam Atkinson
The Listener is the second novella in Indrajit Garai’s first volume of short stories titled ‘The Sacrifice’. As the title suggests, the stories are connected by the common theme of sacrifice.
Matthew is a young boy living with his distant mother. He also has to deal with her unsavoury boyfriend who happens to be one of his school teachers. Matthew goes to the nearby forest to escape his problems and seeks sanctuary in the roots of an ancient tree. Danger looms as the entire forest is in danger from Forest Office who wants to cut down the trees for profit.
The Listener is approximate 70 pages in length and I actually read the story in a single sitting. Garai has a quick, fluid writing style that makes his stories both easy to read and read quickly.
Despite being a good story overall, regrettably for me The Listener is the weakest novella in the collection due to the amount of questions I had after the story had concluded.
Due to their length it is typical for short stories and novellas to essentially start in the middle of a story – right where the action is beginning. Now while The Listener does this it also means that we never get an explanation for the rift between Matthew and his mother. This is a shame since their relationship is such a big part of the story.
The biggest issue I had whilst reading The Listener was Matthew’s age. While his exact age isn’t given he has to be around ten yet personally I though his speech and thought pattern were too mature for a 10-year-old. This is a problem that could easily be fixed by aging Matthew to his mid-teens.
This novella is called The Listener – so who is the Listener? I believe there are multiple answers to that question. The first is the ancient tree. It is a comfort to Matthew and always there when he needs it. Matthew himself could also be the Listener as he is the only one who can hear and understand the plight of the forest. Due to her initial lack of communication Matthew’s mother could be counted as the Listener as she goes on a journey and learns to listen by the end of the story.
As I stated, all the novellas in the collection are linked through the theme of sacrifice. I’m still in two minds about how well The Listener pulled off this theme. The story’s ending makes it clear that the ‘sacrifice’ is the ancient tree which has to be cut down before the rest of the forest can be saved. While I understand this line of thinking – was the forest being saved an unintended consequence? The ancient tree by itself didn’t save the forest; that was also due to Matthew’s campaigning efforts. So is The Listener a story about sacrifice or about loss and the affects of our actions? I honestly don’t know…or perhaps the answer is all three at once?
A copy of this collection of short stories was kindly provided to me by Estelle, a friend of the author. You can find more information about Indrajit and his works on Estelle’s website.
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