Half Life - Roopa Farooki "...running away really is the easy part; it is coming home that is hard"

NOTE: I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program

Aruna Ahmed Jones just picks up and leaves her London apartment, her job, her material possessions, and her husband. Because it is time to face what she ran away from: the man she loved, Jazz Ahsan, and the secret of her past.

I Liked:
I read mostly science fiction, fantasy and mystery. But I couldn't help but be intrigued by the premise of this book (especially after watching the fantastic Slumdog Millionaire). And this isn't one of those books that promises the world and leaves us with pebbles and salt. Roopa Farooki delivers.
The cast is small, but each character plays a unique, varied role. We focus on three primary characters: Aruna, Jazz, and a former poet, Hari Hassan. All three are unique, rich, and well-developed. Aruna is our primary protagonist, the woman who leaves her life in London (and her husband, Patrick) to return to Singapore and the life she ran away from. It is easy to sympathize with her plight, to feel her emotions (which she relays with stunning clarity and unashamed candor), and to journey with her on this emotional roller coaster ride. Jazz is our secondary protagonist, the former lover of Aruna. I enjoyed learning how he lived his life in Aruna's absence, how caring he was to her, how he wastes his time in a loveless relationship to a shallow woman. Lastly is Hari Hassan. I was dumbstruck at how different he was, yet he was interesting and complicated as well. It was a unique move of Farooki to make him hospitalized (at least, I've not read many books with this development), so I was impressed and torn at his helplessness, at his lack of privacy, and at his slowly deteriorating condition.
The minor characters--Anwar, June, Patrick--likewise make their mark in this book, be it small or large. Anwar was a delightful character, fun but more than just that. June is completely self-centered. Her life is herself and she won't let anyone else move to the forefront. Her character gives us definite insights into Jazz and why he would choose a woman so different from Aruna. Lastly is the caring British doctor, husband of Aruna, Patrick. This guy is winsome, loving, caring. We feel Aruna's anguish as he reaches out for her, but her bruised heart just can't take his kindness.
The plot is full of twists and turns, but I promise, I will make this review spoiler-free. But I will say that Farooki stunned me. Who knew that a woman's journey to re-find herself could be so interesting, could be written in such a way that it has thrilled me more than many of the so-called "thrillers" I have read? Sure, I guessed a few surprises, but in some ways, they left me more interested to see how they connected than to make me bored.
Farooki uses third person present to relay the story in "present" time and third person past to relay the story in "past" time. Normally, this would completely flop. I've read so many books that have used this awkwardly, with little knowledge or talent. But Farooki really knew what she was doing when she wrote this and used those tenses so it comes off absolutely perfectly. I like knowing when I am in a flashback, and the tense change (along with section breaks) really helps me.
The setting is gorgeous, almost surreal, well described yet never, never breaking the pace or slowing the story. This is so hard for authors to do, but Farooki does it like a pro.

I Didn't Like:
Gosh, this is going to be really hard and very nitpicky.
The story starts out a bit slower than I would have liked. A little faster perhaps would work better.
If there is anything "wrong" with this book, it is how confusing it is at times. I can't help but get confused over the countries (was Jazz from Bangladesh, Singapore, Pakastan...?).

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
F-bombs fly with frequency. Expect to come across some d*** and h***s too.
Aruna has quite the sex life, as does Jazz and even Hari. It is not really all the explicit, though.
Several side characters die, one when her house is set on fire.

In the beginning, I thought it was another hum-drum "drama" piece. But Farooki proved me wrong. This is a thoughtful book, about returning to your home, making peace with your life, and finding redemption. Highly recommended.