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Dava Shastri’s 'Last Day' is a story of a dysfunctional family

It has an interesting premise that will leave the reader mildly dissatisfied at the end

Shrestha Saha | Published 24.01.22, 12:55 AM

Sourced by the correspondent

The premise of Kirthana Ramisetti’s debut novel Dava Shastri’s Last Day (Hachette India; Rs 699) had us soaring with expectations before the book even arrived at our table. The year is 2044 and Dava Shastri is America’s leading philanthropist with four children. Their wealth is as immeasurable as is the clarity of their job profiles. Trust fund kids with their own partners, and few grandkids to boot, Dava has a legacy of having done notable work for her foundation. She lives on a man-made island –– Beatrix Island which homes her chalet-like house that was copied from her trip to Switzerland. It is here that she invites her four kids with a strange mandate of ‘no technology allowed’. However, there is a more sinister plan at play as Dava has terminal cancer and has chosen to end her life by assisted suicide instead of waiting for death to strike in a couple of more weeks. However, she chooses to announce her death a day prior to be able to read what the tabloids, friends and acquaintances have to say about her. She prepares herself and her surroundings for everything except one –– the secrets of years past to spill out causing mayhem in the minds of her progeny.

We imagined a self-assured woman in control taking sharp decisions as Dava. She doesn’t shy away from rebuking her son in front of everyone when he criticises her house. She shies away from mollified attention received from her son’s new partner. However, she is not in control of her narrative now that the world knows she is dead. She has to make peace with her secrets and with her children who are now in the knowledge of her secrets. With a killer premise like this, we were prepared to meet the cast of HBO’s popular television show Succession translated on the pages of this book. However, the drama is mild, the secrets even milder and their sadness barely scratches the skin with Dava Shastri’s Last Day. The book feels like a dilution of emotions for the reader, leaving us barely excited. The incidents of one night are drawn out in a drastically slow pace and we found ourselves asking the author to hurry up a little.


The language is simple and often superfluous and the pace is just not gritty. The book tries to deliver a lot and ends up with ‘not enough’. The protagonist is diabolic but not enough; the kids are selfish but not enough; the characters are funny but not enough and the family is dysfunctional but not enough. The enormous strength of the quintessential matriarch fails to hold the plot together with multiple subplots coming together. The narrative is loose, which makes the reader invest less in the characters, leaving many details to a redundant death. That ovens need to be opened to check whether the food is done or not and Dava’s kids’ rebuke for still using such a piece of ancient machinery in her home is perhaps the only detail that lends to the fact that we are reading about 2044. In the grander scheme of things, these details end up taking more from the book than giving. There are some parts that are really appreciable about this book and most of them would have to be the protagonist who you slowly grow to dislike with passing time. However, the lack of pace also isn’t helped by the fact that most of the incidents occur over the course of a single night.

New York City-based writer Kirthana Ramisetti has written for leading publications of the USA and holds a degree in creative writing from Emerson College. Her book has already been signed on for a series by Veritas Entertainment Group and we can only hope that the show succeeds in creating some intrigue, suspense and drama that the book definitely failed to do. Maybe if you picked up the book with lesser expectations than we did, it might just pleasantly surprise you in parts. Remember our words in the parts that don’t!

Last updated on 24.01.22, 12:27 PM

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