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A Deconstructed Heart [Kindle Edition]

Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mirza is a middle-aged Indian college professor whose wife has left him. He moves out of his house into a tent in his back garden, where he sets up an outdoor classroom and serves tea to his kind but bewildered neighbors. He is visited by the irritable spirit of his long-dead teacher, Khan Sahib, who is befuddled by the dysfunctions of modern life.

In the north of England, Mirza's niece, Amal, is finishing up her last year of college before she is expected to join her parents in their new home in India. Asked by her father to talk her uncle back into his senses, she moves into Mirza's house, and they soon are connected by their shared loneliness. She meets Rehan, Mirza's student, and is intrigued by the path of certainty he has built over his own loss and loneliness--a certainty that is threatened by his growing feelings for her.

When Rehan disappears, Amal's suffering forces Mirza to face the world once more. Together, Mirza and Amal must come to a new understanding of what it means to be an immigrant family when the old traditions have unraveled.

A Deconstructed Heart is a novella that explores the breakdown and rebuilding in one immigrant family trying to adapt: how lines in families and cultures are forcibly redrawn, how empty space can be reframed by a tent into a new definition of home... but how, no matter how hard we may try to forget, the past refuses to be contained.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed is the author of A Deconstructed Heart and she is currently writing an interconnected short story collection titled The Purana Qila Stories. Three of those short stories, A Change in the Weather, The Dust Beneath Her Feet and The Well-Tended Garden, are available on Amazon for Kindle. Shaheen won a national essay competition about Indian life held by the Indian High Commission in England and has had her poetry and prose published in the Cadbury's Book of Children's PoetryTomorrow magazine and Nadopasana One. Shaheen grew up in India and England and now lives in Chicago with her family.

Product Details

  • File Size: 304 KB
  • Print Length: 161 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1481062808
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009ZO1FVA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,319,467 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
"...when you have little time left, you understand how to sift every action, every word, weighing it against that little store of time. Not one grain is wasted."

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), an Arabic-speaking Jew from Algeria, father of Deconstruction, would love this book. He taught that to begin Deconstruction, we must strive for "peaceful coexistence" of opposing concepts, which in Western thought, are usually in "violent hierarchical" relation to each other.

First, we have to break the link between the two concepts. Second, we have to keep the old concepts apart so they don't re-establish their former hierarchy. Third, we have to create some new ways to understand the old concepts; develop unique new languages which do not fit in either of the prior oppositional corners. But there can be no "synthesis." We must understand and interpret the differences.

I note that 'A Deconstructed Heart' is on a list of "Desi Chick Lit." I don't want to disparage "Chick Lit," but this book is an existential triumph - much deeper and dimensional than what we usually associate with the genre.

This wonderful book by Ashraf-Ahmed shows us first hand, the opposing concepts of Western and Eastern ways of speaking, living, being, and what happens during that painful period of adjustment when the new language is still forming. Not incidentally, her language to describe the coexistence is wise and careful. She handles her characters gently with love and compassion.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A family of disconnections November 27, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
When Mirza's wife one morning announces, to his apparent surprise, that she is leaving him, his immediate reaction is to ask who will feed the cat. His second, after she has departed, is to hide beneath the bed covers. Now, if you do not find this behavior somewhat strange, you will not be surprised by what happens next; namely, he pitches a tent in his backyard, decamps from his home to dwell in it, withdraws from his college teaching duties, and convinces neighbors and family that he has gone crazy. Fortunately, he belongs to a community, and others soon come to his aid. His niece Amal, a college student, moves in and brings order to his household. Soon she is joined by a young man named Rehan, a devoted former student of Mirza. Despite their presence, Mirza continues living in his tent, where he experiences visits from the ghost of a former teacher/mentor who berates Mirza and beats him at chess. Between visits from the concerned, chess games, and backyard seminars, Mirza reflects upon his ill-fated marriage, married life, family, and his sense of alienation. Meanwhile, Amal and Rehan form a relationship that seems to be going somewhere. The action in this novel is limited; contemplation is on equal footing. The point seems to be about replacing an old normal with a new one through a gradual process rather than a quick and simple fix. Mirza's old normal ends as the story starts and a new normal is achieved at the end; likewise, Amal's normal ends when she comes to Mirza's aid and a new normal comes at the end. All this happens at a leisurely pace, with no high drama, major conflicts, or other disruptions. Everything simply works itself out. Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Disconcerted Heart Review December 30, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story of two hearts is set in England but is applicable to all those who are living abroad in a foreign country. Being from India, I enjoyed it a lot as living in USA I have come across many couples going through personal conflicts that the main characters go through in this book. I enjoyed reading this book going in Caltrain from San Jose to San Francisco.
The story about an uncle and a niece , who each experience heartbreak and who make the journey towards psychological healing. I strongly recommend this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read November 22, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A Deconstructed Heart is the story of two people - an uncle and a niece - who individually experience heartbreak and who, together, make the journey towards healing. The author unfolds the lives of these characters in an easy and engaging manner and you find yourself quickly invested in them and their personal struggle and rooting for their recovery. The pace is just right and all of the characters felt very real. The writing was colorful and descriptive without drowning in details. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more from Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An English Garden Party...? May 29, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This short novel is not perfect--there are some pacing issues toward the end--but they pale in the light of the lyrical quality of the writing. The words are evocative and, at her best, Ms. Ashraf-Ahmed uses them to beautifully paint scenes that are both textually rich and subtle. She created a little world--an English house and garden--that I easily and eagerly fell into. The people who populated the story felt finely brushed; these were people who I've met or could meet someday... my neighbors. And yet, the cultural paradigm made this an exotic book, written as it is from the perspective of Indian/Pakistanis living in England and their English neighbors/friends/students. Some of my favorite parts of the novel were the flashback scenes involving the youth and courtship of the central character, Mirza, and his wife, Naida.
Later, after a long marriage and tragedies, they part, which is the opening of the book.
With a touch of obstinate madness and magical realism, and help from a host of helpers, not the least of which is his niece, Amal, Mirza gradually recaptures his life... not the life he had previously, but the new life that "know[s] what loss is." A Deconstructed Heart is a beautiful and rich human story. There is no intricate plot or shocking reveal in this book--it is simply and wonderfully a tale of people living the lives that they are given.
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