I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
When Sonia reached out to me about reviewing this book, what first drew me to it was that it was about two strangers meeting on a flight from Delhi to NYC. As someone who’s travelled alone from India to the US multiple times, I’ve always wondered how people strike up a conversation on flights. Doesn’t anyone else get stuck with a snoring Indian uncle as their seat mate every. single. time?
I immediately jumped on the opportunity to read and review it because it seemed just like my kind of literary fiction.
A flight from New Delhi to new York. Two strangers, seat 7A and seat 7B, who have nothing in common. Absolutely nothing. Except they are both hoping the seat next to theirs remains empty. It doesn’t. Mid-flight turbulence and infant incontinence forces them to interact—the cool wall Street guy and the mom-with-the-drool-stained-sweater-and-ordinary-aspirations. Blistering wit, opposing views, and some unexpectedly poignant admissions keep them addictive engaged and hopelessly sleep deprived through the fifteen-hour journey. Touch down… And they leave the cabin without a backward Glance, jumping right back into their dramatically different lives. Never to meet again. But somehow they continue to travel together—interlocked forever through an inexplicable connectedness. Can one meeting change everything forever? The Japanese have a term for it: ichi-go ichi-e. One time, one encounter, lasts a lifetime.
The occupants of seats 7A and B on a flight from Delhi to NYC did not board thinking they’d strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Neither did they expect it to turn into a 15-hour-long verbal sparring match that they would keep thinking back to long after they’d disembarked from the flight. But that’s exactly what happened. How this one conversation influences these two passengers for the rest of their lives forms the rest of the story.
Seats 7A and B are polar opposites. One’s a Wall Street guy, the other an environmentalist mother of two. The former loves glitz and glamour, the latter loves quiet afternoons with her loved ones. Their lives couldn’t be more dramatically different but being sleep-deprived on a long-haul flight leads to a conversation filled with poignant admissions, witty comebacks, and verbal jabs. A conversation they would both find themselves continuing in their own heads months after having met for the first and last (?) time.
Sonia has a dynamite writing voice and it shows in this book, especially in Seat 7B’s (we never find out her name) sections. In her chapters, it is easy to see what a strong voice in literary fiction Sonia has. But Seat 7A’s sections are also a testament to Sonia’s strong writing arsenal, because his monologues are just as different from 7B’s as his character. The different writing style for both the main characters is a definitive marker of whose POV it is, and that’s really commendable in a dual POV book.
While reading about the two seat mates’ witty verbal sparring is highly entertaining, there are moments where one wonders if their individual characters have been overdone. When I say polar opposites, they’re actually on entirely opposite ends of the character spectrum. I’m not disputing that Wall Street megalomaniacs and romantics obsessed with stars, the environment, and hyphens (yes, hyphens) exist, but to have them be idealistic with respect to their individual beliefs to a fault can be…tiring.
The story may be about how their minds keep going back to past arguments long after they last spoke, but there’s no two-way impact on their characters. While 7A subconsciously realises his fallacies thanks to 7B, the latter doesn’t show much change effected on herself because of him. Even her loosening up her tight fist around her values and beliefs for just a second to live in the moment like 7A would have sufficed, but we never get to see that.
Despite this, I enjoyed reading A Year of Wednesdays because of all it says about meaningful conversations, poignant confessions, and platonic love. Especially the last one.
You see, A Year of Wednesdays is about love. In 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy rightly calls it “a word that’s been tragically co-opted by the romance industrial complex.” Not many books have platonic love as their theme but this one does. A Year of Wednesdays is an out-and-out love story–a love story about two polar opposites locking verbal horns, a love story about the beauty of conversation, a love story about single moments lasting lifetimes.
And therein lies its beauty.
Rating: 4 out of 5