Source- Review copy/ Pan Macmillan Australia
Synopsis: 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. In a dramatic turn of events, Sharell’s marriage breaks down and her perfect life falls apart. Sharell opts for a complete change of scene, travelling to India to do volunteer work. But reinventing herself is not as easy as it sounds, especially in the chaos and confrontation of India. Just as she is beginning to wonder whether she’ll ever find her way, she meets a man. And so begins Sharell’s second coming.
Review: I really loved this memoir, written by Australian, Sharell Cook. There seems to be a trend for women to write memoirs about their overseas escapades following a relationship breakdown. Sometimes, these work well and sometimes they don’t. Henna for the Broken-Hearted, definitely worked for me!
Although I did really enjoy Eat, Pray Love (the most well-known novel in this genre) it was quite introspective and quite melancholic at times. Which, of course is fine because that is what the author experienced and a memoir wouldn’t be a memoir if it didn’t shed light on the low points of one’s life. What I loved about Sharell Cook’s story is the balance between
open-mindedness to experiencing the new and an introspective account that is realistic and shows her flaws.
Following a marriage breakdown which was the final straw in a long drawn out unhealthy relationship pattern, Sharell zips off to India for a break from her job and love woes to learn what it means to become independent and step outside of her comfort zone.
Sharell was quite truthful about her inner conflicts. As a psychologist, I was drawn to her insightfulness and her growing sense of awareness and sense of self. She was someone who liked to be in control and live a comfortable lifestyle which in everyday life seemed to work out okay for her. But when unexpected events occurred and things became stressful, these traits also became a weakness for Sharell- which I think is true for any personality characteristics. Sharell would experience anxiety, irritability and that dire need to escape and run home to safety. But she persevered, having taken note of these defences and finding the strength to move past them, despite being out of her comfort zone.
Sharell falls in love with a non-traditional Indian man from a traditional family. It was lovely to see their connection deepen and she was able to experience unconditional love and security in a chaotic environment. Life in India was unpredictable, she was judged, she was an outsider and yet she endured this because her connection with Aryan was important enough to make everything else worth it. It took a lot of courage to shed her cultural expectations and societal norms to marry an Indian man and live in another country, learn another culture, another language and another lifestyle.
I really admire the strength of people who can throw away their career, take on another one, move to another country and take a risk. Perhaps because I have that little niggling restlessness of my own to step outside of societal expectations and take a risk too. It’s true that these expectations whether perceived or real, make people feel trapped. But this book makes me think, well why not? Who says we have to live the way people expect us to. This was a question Sharell toyed with for quite some time before she found the peace to let it go and just enjoy the moment.
Henna for the Broken Hearted is a really enjoyable memoir and if nothing else will have you putting India on your list of dream travel locations.
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