Review for “Problems” by Jade Sharma (2016)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Jade Sharma’s literary debut follows the life of Maya, a twenty something married graduate student living in New York City who cheats on her husband, does heroin, and occasionally ponders what she wants out of life. It’s a cautionary tale of heroin abuse (I noticed a lot of parallels between this and Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream”), but more for a modern, hip craigslist era.
There’s not a lot that happens in this book. Events come and go, the POV shifts from 1st to 2nd person. There is a plot, but it’s pretty thin. It’s more of a documentation of Maya’s inner thoughts as her situation gets more and more desperate and she goes from bad to worse, to the very worst, and back again to just plain bad. No thought is really off limits either. There’s a lot of sex here–but it’s not fun to read about. We experience Maya’s self loathing, dope-sickness, degrading sex adventures, and bowel movements all in equal degree. She’s also an immensely unlikeable character, but I suspect that that’s exactly the way the author intended her to be. The discomfort goes on for pages and pages, but I was compelled to continue reading just to witness Maya pull herself together. It’s a short book (only 186 pages), yet for the reasons above it took me almost a week to read this. Had it been 10 pages longer, I don’t know if I’d still be giving it four stars.
If you can get past your squeamishness, there are some jewels here. Despite its bleakness, there’s loads of dark humor, with occasional nuggets of greatness that kept me underlining passages in my Kindle device. I’d definitely give this book a try.