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Love is normal. So are the ones not understanding it.

We all fall in love. Most of us come out of it. Some of us remain in it. Few live it. All of which is normal. This is what normal people do.

Sally Rooney’s latest novel traces the story of Marianne and Connell, two ordinary people with ordinary feelings. Together they are inseparable, yet they seem to be missing each other’s emotions. While they’re raw in expression, they’re mature in accepting what is. Their relationship is love or friendship and which one is more valuable?

The book tracks their journey every few days, or four months, or a few weeks again. Maybe, as a reminder that time is merely an act of documentation, to thread them together.

The book is written in a subtle manner, one that is non-judgemental of what love means to us. There are points when you wish Marianne gets over her self loathe and acknowledge that she matters. “She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person.”

We don’t cross years without them coming back to each other. Why would we? Why should we?

From being teenagers to young adults, both of them go through psycho-social changes, asking questions that earlier seemed like status quo; while finding answers to what used to be burning desires. But most importantly, both the characters learn to actively surrender to the normalcy of their emotions.

Rooney’s indulgency to not use any quotation marks is an expression of intimacy and trust with the reader. It has no breaks. She knows that you’re surrounded in her world and will not lose thought.

You know it is Connell’s voice in self apathy. You know it is Marianne laughing and internalising it.

It took me three nights to finish this book. But as the number of hours decreased on my kindle, I began slowing down. I did not want to know Marianne and Connell’s love story, I wanted to feel okay in being human. I wanted to clench their conversations and immerse my mind, allow myself a degree of self acceptance towards my younger self.

Normal people are damaged and resilient. They have difficult parents and loving friends. They have confusing confidence and broken ideals. They hold onto the past, they are unwillingly clear of the future. They love and forget. They love and leave. They love and forgive. And they are all real.

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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