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Book Review - Fighter Pilots Never Die


 â€œUma Parameswaran challenges Tolstoy’s assertion about the similarity of happy families by the very nature and provenance of her writing…” Betty Jane Wylie.

 What makes a good short story ? In Uma Parameswaran short story collection, ‘Fighter pilots never die’, the elements  of nostalgia, human experiences, cultural values and a demand for emotional response from its characters are the dominant elements in the setting and plot. Her first novel, Mangoes on the Maple Tree, offered a sustained focus on three weeks in the lives of an Indian immigrant family in Canada's most centrally located city: Winnipeg.


Winnipeg, where the author resides and teaches, features too in the title story in this collection , Fighter Pilots Never Die. It sets the tone for the book when Latika, is summoned  to the hospital suddenly where her husband has been taken after suffering a stroke on the tennis court. On her way to the hospital, Latika is transported back in time when she recalls her passionate love for a  fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force, just before the India-Pakistan war of 1971 and her father’s disapproval of their marriage. Death is imminent for a soldier of war and the emotions at being faced with such anguish all over again becomes the central theme in this plot.


With the Fire as Witness, the next selection deals with a similar theme of loss but of a different nature.A father watches as his daughter is getting married and allows himself  the varied emotions of loss, survival and resignation for the way things are meant to be.


The author comes back to the theme of death and survival in the story of Savitri where the protagonist in the story is recovering from the death of her husband and her friend gently tells her that all woman are the quinitessential Saviti who not only know how to rescue her husband  from death but who can also learn to survive him.


Freeze Frame deals with a group of self proclaimed feminists friends who gather to celebrate a divorce but Maru’s final thought of a quote from EM Forster puts the reader in a dilemna“ If you had that moment with someone , you have to staty true to it, stay true to that spark, to the divinity that raises us out and beyond our self”.


Icicle is a poignant story of a couple drifting apart slowly with time and space acting against them. This story comes alive with characters who show the depth of their feeling and the author has done well with portraying the dilemma facing them.


The last piece is light and humorous but almost predictable,How we won olympic gold but leaves the reader with a smile and a sense of relief.


In each selection, the characters are aware of their limitations as well as their possibilities in dealing with issues confronting them. If you are looking for some light and quick reading for the summer, this is a good one.


 Born in Chennai, India, Uma Parameswaran (nee Ganesan) was educated at Jabalpur (B.A.), Nagpur (Dip journalism and M.A), Indiana University (M.A. creative writing), and Michigan State University (PhD). Married to a mathematician, she has lived in Winnipeg since 1966. She joined the faculty of the University of Winnipeg, had a daughter, and completed her Ph.D., in sequence. She initiated several courses in Creative Writing at the U of W. After toiling up the academic ladder, she is now contemplating a free-fall into fiction writing. She is the author of numerous critical works in Canadian/Commonwealth literature, in addition to the publications below. Fighter Pilots Never Die








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