I think that what Jani Viswanath has attempted to do in her collection, Echoes of Light, is admirable and that to a greater extent, she achieves it.
The essence of her writings is to not be concerned with the materialistic attractions of this earthly life and the striving towards tomorrow and what it may offer that is better than today; instead, we should revel in the here and now and be grateful for what we have and who we have around us and be content. I think that is a timeless mantra which is often cited as the way to a good life, a happy life and that it is also a thread that permeates many of the world’s religions.
It is perhaps not surprising then that reference is made to religion throughout and there is an air of deep philosophising about the collection as Viswanath ruminates through her poems on what has been lost in our world today; compassion, humanity; love replaced by selfishness, greed, war. Whilst it perhaps all seems a little gloomy at times with regret for how people are choosing to live their lives in the poems, I did feel a goodness emanating from my reading of them and a gentle pleading with the reader to adhere to the message. I think these texts are designed to reap change by the author’s sharing of perspective and ideas and that can only be a good thing.
Whilst the poems are well composed, I have to say that the strength and the most enjoyment to be had in this collection for me are in the short stories which read like parables. There are a wide variety of characters depicted although the stories are mainly set in places like Indonesia and Afghanistan. However, the messages to all are clear and regardless of the reason for writing them, the stories are good: solid characterisation, clear evocation of place, well plotted with purpose, strong representation of family dynamics.
Jani Viswanath is a good writer and so her writings are appealing. For those of you who like books that present moral lessons for the characters and which have undertones of advice about how we can navigate the times that we find ourselves living in and overtures of spirituality, then Echoes of Light will provide balm for your soul.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.