Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shades of Life - Book Review

                      It was time to sit, plan and execute a plan for survival. We had to accept this as a challenge’ reads one line in the beginning of this narration. The background to this declaration is the knowledge of the fact that twelve and a half year old Aditya has been diagnosed with acute kidney disease. While most people would have gone crumbling along with their world, when hit with news of such a magnitude, Aditya’s mother and family took it as a challenge that they eventually overcame with extraordinary measures of optimism and healthcare.

                      Shades of life is a first person account of Aditya’s struggle and subsequent recovery from  Renal Failure that caused him to lose function in both kidneys even before adolescence. While it was the boy who suffered from the clinical implications of the disease, his family – father, mother and elder brother, suffered along with him, emotionally as well. Vasundhara Ramanujan’s moving account, detailing her younger son’s condition and how it affected and changed normal life for the family, is a revelation. Of how, the ring of suffering and recovery is not just restricted to the patient but extends to his loved ones who wish to see him heal and return to life as they once knew it.

                     The book is a trove of information on renal disease, a more personal account rather than medical, offered from the point of view of Vasundhara and her family. While a text book or encyclopedia might give you all technical details of the condition and case studies to accompany, Aditya’s story includes a different perspective. It gives you, in addition, the reaction of a family, which until a stubborn headache, had a peaceful existence worrying about the result of cricket matches and college admissions. You get to feel and experience the patient side of the story, from the initial shock to coming to grip with the condition and choosing to fight to live and live with better health.

What worked for me:

1.       Short chapters with concise accounts of events.
2.       Chronological sequencing of experiences and information that make this book more of a journal than a compilation of medical inferences.
3.       The physician profiles at the end, detailing the work and achievements of experts in the field that I am sure will be useful to many.
4.       The honest tone of the book that does not at any point of time attempt to be overtly dramatic.

What did not work for me:

1.       While being a science student puts me at an advantage for understanding the medical terms and names of drugs listed in this book, to a non-science reader, it does tend to come across sometimes as too much detail.
2.       Some chapters have a final passage called reflections, that goes on to explain in some more detail about the emotional side of points covered in the text. In my opinion, I didn’t really find the need to separate the passages. They seemed to convey the same kind of matter as the rest of the chapter.
3.       The narration, fueled by a very emotional trove of experiences tends to get monotonous at times. There are opinions, anger, confusion and clarity from so many people closely involved with the problem, not to mention Aditya himself and I couldn’t help but want for a tighter script.


Shades of Life is a story of survival. Of how one family braved it through two critical health problems that threatened to rob one of their own, of holistic living. When you just can’t find that ray of sunshine in your life, pick up this book.  Aditya and his indomitable spirit will help you through.

Rating: 3/5

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Title : Shades of Life
Author : Vasundhara Ramanujan
Publisher : Westland
Price : 195

Did you like this review? Do you agree with my point of view? Or not? Drop in a comment. Let's discuss :)


  1. Oh I so wanted to read this one! Great review. Seems like a good book :)

  2. Thank you Ashna :) It is a book that leaves you wondering how someone could have so much willpower.