The Things That We Lost
by Jyoti PatelPublished 2023 384 pages
You know how Disney keeps making these wildly successful animated films about generational trauma? About tackling adolescence and adulthood and the ways that our families colour our experiences of casting out into the world for the first time?
The Things That We Lost is the story of Avani, a first-generation British Gujarati mother, and her son Nik. Avani is outwardly successful, happy, and composed, but is nursing a decades-old trauma around the death of her husband and Nik's father, Elliot. She refuses to share her grief with Nik, who never knew his father, but who has grown up to be a happy, confident kid in the London suburb of Harrow. On the death of Avani's father (and Nik's grandfather) at the beginning of the book, Nik, on the cusp of leaving Harrow for an unnamed university in the distinctly-less-culturally-diverse English countryside, takes it on himself to investigate the circumstances of his father's death, opening up old wounds both his own and his mother's.
The book dances with the idea of a mysterious death, but a murder mystery this is not. The Things That We Lost is a character study, and it's absolutely fantastic at bringing Avani and Nik to life, expertly switching perspective at just the right time and revealing the story piece by piece, without ever getting stuck in the details.