The 1st story in the book is “A Curious Dalliance” by Sutapa Basu. It introduces the main character Sudip and sets the scene and pace for the coming chapters. I liked the way the protagonist never even knew what came upon him when Megha decided his fate for him. He ended up in a marriage that reads a little like hell and starts off with a ‘bang’. It was interesting to see the wife presented as the villain and the husband and his family as the victims – but then came the shock. Very clever!
The 2nd story is “The Diary of Joseph Varughese” by Ayan Pal. I got to know Shivi, who had only been a baby in the first chapter. Her diary entries fascinated me and showed the author’s understanding of the human mind and soul. The first paranormal / mystery element of the novel was cleverly introduced in this story. And let’s not forget about ominous James entering the picture. Beware, beware!
The 3rd story is “The Web of Life” by Sanchita Sen Das. Siya, mentioned in the chapter before, gets a chance to speak up in this fast-paced chapter, outlining her relationship with Siddharth. The Kotteswaram air tragedy will stay on my mind for a while yet…
The 4th story is “The Real Fiction of Illiana Braun” by Arvind Passey. The humorous style of the author made it an entertaining read. Illiana and Varu seemed like two uncommon characters and would have deserved a book just for themselves.
The 5th story is “A Burning Candle” by Mithun Mukherjee. This is yet another tale of people meeting and lives colliding, and it carried narrative power as well as philosophical gems. Illiana made a reappearance, and I got another look at the power of a certain diary. The ending made me shiver.
The 6th story is “Relic to Ruins” by Avanti Sopory. Catherine from the previous chapter stood in the limelight again, but in a different way. The setting and characters really came alive in this chapter. I caught a glimpse of Afghanistan and more danger.
The 7th story is “Leap of Faith” by Bhaswar Mukherjee. Picking up the thread, the chapter revolves around Afghanistan and is told from the POV of Jabar. I got to know more about Jameela from the previous chapter, and had the feeling that the tide was changing. There was a positive feel to the story. Many more characters added even more hope.
The 8th story is “Reclaiming Life” by Anupama Jain. The style and protagonist differed a lot from what I had just read, but that was refreshing and entertaining. It was easy to identify with Poorni and root for her. The ending asked an important question that prepared me for the rest of the book.
The 9th story is “Dragon Lady” by Deepti Menon. The title itself was intriguing, and the story started off with a bang and held me captive right throughout. The humorous tinge to it, combined with the effortless writing and the many conflicts thrown into the spicy mixture, made for a very entertaining read. Kamu sounded like a real handful, and her baby Pankaj added to the hullaballoo. Binoy was interesting and fitted into the picture just perfectly. I got to meet Poorni again, and what a surprise that was. Let’s just say that the title was done full justice by the author.
The 10th story is “For a Speck of a Moment” by Amrit Sinha. It shone more light on Binoy and made me rethink quite a few things. The chapter struck me as full of action, and it carried enough potential to deserve a whole book. Binita made it shine even brighter.
The 11th story is “To Ma & Pa, Con Amore” by Monika Nair. It read a little like a family saga and was full of emotional sensitivity and brilliant buoyancy at once. I fell in love with the narrative style – and Mona Lisa was a refreshing whirlwind breezing through the chapter. This story felt the most ‘modern’, ‘real’ and ‘light’ to me. Prepare yourselves for Binoy’s re-entry.
The 12th story is “Look Beyond” by Amar Lakshya Pawar. I could sense that the book was gearing up for its end because we seemed to come closer to full circle. The rather short chapter revolved around Aditya and threw up a lot of questions while answering others. I met the Three Witches again, something I had been hoping would happen.
The 13th story is the oddly but aptly titled “Dawn at Dusk” by Bhuvaneshwari Shankar. The previously introduced Meena takes center stage in this chapter that races towards the end of the novel. I loved the fast-paced yet sensitive style of the author. Oh, did I mention that I got reacquainted with Sudip from the 1st story? Throw in Shivi too, and you feel a little like at a highschool reunion.
The 14th story is the perfectly named “The Last Act” by Arpita Banerjee. The author probably had the most difficult task, and she rose to the challenge brilliantly. The first sentence pulled me in, and I was left breathless right throughout the story with its clever climax. Meena (together with Pragya) carried me through the chapter and made me realize again how crazy love can make us sometimes. Sudip closes the curtain on a book that is definitely worth this long review.
All in all, I found “Crossed & Knotted” to be a refreshingly different and rewarding experience. It was at times a little difficult to keep up with all the characters and to build a whole picture from all the puzzle pieces presented in so many ways. Nevertheless, the story’s overlying theme of love and lies and life held my attention. Well done!