Paper Moon is just as ethereal as the song it is named after. The lightness of the writing, so close to making you believe it is effortless is a fitting ode to readers that may or may not dream of running bookstores. It is incredibly special when you find yourself reflected in the pages of a book you are reading but there is no one else that I relate to more than Fiza Khalid, the protagonist.
Now, without digressing too much into a starry-eyed dream of a bookstore, I’ll steer us back to what Rehana Munir, the writer is able to do in a stellar fashion. The spaces in her books, so familiar yet sometimes fictional come alive – when she brings back memories of Totos, bandstand, Elco, St. Xaviers college, the meandering roads of South Bombay with incredible fondness and nostalgia, you are not lost in descriptions but your own memories that these spaces evoke, taking you on a nostalgia trip like none another.
What is greater than to mesmerise a reader so completely? Rehana Munir does it time and again as Fiza travels both to Goa and London – with Goa, she makes me want to go back to old haunts, and brings memories of a noisy Martin’s corner and serradura, while with London, she makes me want to gather all my life savings and pack my bags.
The book makes a needed distinction between life and living – that life sometimes might just be something that happens to us and living is the choices we make to shape it or what we make of those choices thrown at us. Fiza laments life and then is taken by the idea of living it. The characters that shape her choices are written in whole –Dhruv and his meandering, familiar ways, Marc and the exuberance, Noor and her chaotic quiet, Iqbal and his presence in death, Ismail and his consistent compassion, Bharti aunty and her independence, Vivek and his soft companionship – even Iqbal, so reminiscent of the father in his absence but the flame to Fiza’s moth self, showing her what impulses can mean in a rhythm of consistency.
Rehana Munir is masterful in the manner she is able to weave emotions, death, estrangement, love, doubt, melancholy and joy. Paper Moon is a jazz song through and through, ever playful, ever improvising, ever light, ever depth, ever soothing and ever nostalgic. I would strongly recommend those who enjoy the genre of music or enjoy good writing, to pick up the book and just let it take over.