Dedicated to Thamma, the title “Walk Me To The Willow” is divided into 14 engrossing chapters about friendship, loving nicknames that friends address each other with, reunion with old friends, and the manner in which life takes its course but it is good friends who lift up low spirits to give strength, joy, and motivation. Memory plays a crucial role in bringing the four friends together as they mop and clean the cottage to bring it back to its old shine. Sadly, the cover page is rather bland for the kind of entertaining and heart touching plot that rests within the book. It has a dusty window that is perhaps indicative of the window of the cottage that the plot deals with. The perspective that is attempted to be shown is not clear through the cover photo as it can leave readers utterly confused whether the window is showing the world outside the cottage or within in. At 202 pages, the book is a moderate and heartfelt read.
The book follows a third-person narrative perspective and deals with the story of four friends who had grown up together. These friends are Sharmishtha, Tilottama, Mainaak, and Arundhati. The plot revolves around their reunion and the changes that have come into their life in the twenty years that they were away from each other and the Willow. The Willow is the nickname given to the cottage in the hills of Northern India where they used to gather in their childhood and play together. However, life happens and that has its effects. This is where the cottage becomes a symbolic aspect of the novel.
It stands for childhood, innocence, joy and the deep peace felt while living in the lap of nature. The realisation that hits hard though it hits the characters one after the other is the issue of laying claims on the cottage. The unwritten rule that the cottage was their haunt in the childhood as they played there is shown to be replaced by the requirement of presenting written commitment towards the maintenance of the cottage. It is not a burden but it is a change that adulthood and the responsibilities of adulthood bring along which the carefree days of childhood had failed to realise or envision.
The plot follows a rather slow pace. There is a lot of focus on building up the relationship between characters. This is done in the form of dialogues which are short, straightforward, and help explain the relationship shared by the friends, the closeness they share, and the bond they have. For the most part of a lot of chapters, there are incessant dialogue exchanges that make up the script of the novel.
This brings about perspective, and sheds light on the four different characters only to reveal how similar they think and the mutual respect they share for one another. The long gap that they have been away from one another is another angle of the plot. This reunion is presented as a hurried attempt at coming to terms with their past and the times that they have spent away from one another which has brought about a of changes in their lives making them strangers to one another though they share the memories of their childhood.
The time span of being away from one another and the cottage as reflected in the plot is that of 20 years and this is a fairly long time. Yet, change is the only constant and when people share respect for one another then regardless of the time they spend away from each other’s company, they are bound to re-bond. Nature is another important aspect of the plot though it does not respond to the characters and the changes that time has brought about in their lives, it is more of a background set up against which the plot unfolds. The woods had been their playground, the river was their cradle, and the cottage was their usual gathering spot.
The plot also deals with the sentiment of feeling attached to a place as a natural urge in humans to bond with their surroundings. It is this sentiment that made them feel as though they were the rightful owners of the cottage much before their parents had written it down for them. The characters are well-rounded and have many sides to their personality. They are caring, passionate, and respectful of one another. The characterisation is central to the plot as it is through the coming together of characters that the plot unfolds. The four characters are from the main aspect of the novel and there are no foil characters. Even their parents have been mentioned but only as a passing reference with no particular names given to them.
The characters bond with one another and reassess each other’s achievements only to realise that they have gone far ahead in life but left a small part of themselves in the Willow and the life that surrounded it. The realisation hits them hard that what was theirs is slowly being worn out by time and as they say time and tide wait for none. Their challenge then is to beat time and restore the cottage to preserve their childhood which is definitely worth saving.
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