Louisiana Catch Ahana, Sweta Vikram
Louisiana Catch Ahana, Sweta Vikram
Grief, rejection, abuse, unsettled feelings and low self-esteem are just some of what Ahana projects as the novel begins with this young girl having to face her own demons before she can forgive herself for the life she’s accepted. Life seemed perfect for Ahana as her mother organized, orchestrated and created her world enabling her and never really allowing her to become her own person or adult. Always there to pick up the pieces she was a strong willed mother who just wanted to protect her daughter. Ahana married Dev who for all appearances seemed like a nice guy but within their years of marriage she became victim to his harsh treatment, abuse and it will take her entire family and a chance meeting of someone that just might change her world for Ahana to lift the fog that has been clouding her eyes, find the sun and clear away the mist and realize that she controls her life not others. Asked to head up a feminist conference called No Excuse she is entering the world of the internet, social media and leaving the confines of her life in New Delhi and confronting the streets of NOLA and New York in the hope that she will convey to others why women have rights, discrimination is wrong, violence against women will be stopped and their safety is foremost.
Trust comes hard for Ahana but entering the world the internet she joins a support group and here is where things turn dangerous as she falls prey to a man named Jay who only goal is to overpower women by pretending friendship, becoming needy, aggressive in language at times but who in reality is using them, stalking them and pretending to need financial help and then leaving poorer and alone. Meeting Jay she has to escape a catfishing stalker in order to find her own strength and overcome her own fears.
Ahana Chopra was born and raised in New Dehli and as she relates on the first page of the novel she often does not understand herself. She seems at times not able to tell the differences between what she was and what she was expected to be in this city
She tells about her childhood, her aunties, the mores and then her Mumma as she explains No Excuse to her for the first time. The board of the company where she works accepts her proposal to host the conference in NOLA. Her Mumma asked what No Excuse means and the world would come to know that her organization is bringing together world leaders, advocates, activists, feminists, nonprofits, organizations, corporations supportive of women’s safety and rights at one conference to fight violence against women. A tall order but a most admirable and important one if she can do it. It is a three-day event and she will help to spear head each day and give the closing speech on the final day of the conference. With her mother promising to attend the conference and go to NOLA with her little did she know that she would have to learn to live without her. One phone call would change it all as her mother was fighting for the life she would lose and the pain and grief would consume her and her past comes haunting her and the project in New Orleans might just be her salvation. She is half-Indian and Half- Irish and she is about to embark on many journeys not just to from New Delhi to NOLA and New York but on many self awareness journeys, innermost changes within herself as she struggle to find who she is but not before hoping to shed her past.
Losing her mother was tragic so she decided to join an online support group but within this group lurks a predator that would find his way into her life, her heart, mind and then try as Dev her ex-husband did control her every move, use her for his own purposes and take hold of her heart without her realizing that he’s just as toxic as her abusive ex-husband. Jay is his name but what Ahana would eventually learn that so many others in the group fell prey to him and what he did in order to create a scam that was well orchestrated and could have included others. But, Jay is just one person she connects with Rohan Brady is her liaison in New York and he’s there to help her every step of the way with the NOLA conference. Teaching her about Facebook, Twitter and creating an online presence the No Excuse conference and her message takes hold. He’s a public relations guru and he is kind, straightforward and hard for Ahana to believe that he really cares or could care for her. His wit and sense of humor sometimes offends her as he considers her prim and proper. She thinks he’s a womanizer but when you get to know Rohan and then Jay your opinion will change.
Mumma was her best friend and throughout the novel Ahana reflects back many times to what she thinks her mother would do in each situation. But, she has a strong family and strong support especially her cousin Naina and Chutney plus her father seems disjointed and distant after losing his wife. Her mother promised to take the journey along with her to NOLA but now Ahana would have to search for her own answers and learn to build a life for herself but can she? Jay Dubois takes hold of her claiming he too lost his mother but when you get to know him and realize that he is a manipulator, liar and more you will realize that once again Ahana is falling prey to someone like Dev. Her thoughts run rampant and she often makes poor decisions but when Naina comes forward and is straightforward telling her how it really is, she often rebels, runs away or gets angry. Relating her assessment of Dev and his abusiveness, control over her and the fact that at times she often did not feel that she did not deserve his wrath and then allowing him to come back for more and not reporting it, made her a victim. Each member of her family plays a role in helping her overcome her mother’s death but Rohan only wants to protect and help her soar to the top but every step of the way she hinders him, does not trust what he tells her yet falls deeper and deeper into Jay’s grip even though in the back of her mind she knows that he’s using her, lies about his whereabouts and when the truth comes out about his real identity and his quests you won’t believe what she learns but will she finally distance herself before she is his next quarry? In her quest to help other women and create the conference and the different events will Ahana finally come to terms with her own self and find happiness? Online predators are not uncommon and in the digital world where many try to find romance with these dating sites, support groups are popular and many use Twitter to create their own persona or mantras and what happens to Ahana is no different than what can happen to a naïve young girl looking for love and acceptance. But, within her organization we meet Michael Riddick who is anything but understanding, a male chauvinist,
As the conference with Rohan’s help comes into light and her ability to deal with her family issues is worked on and helped by her cousin Naina, Ahana seems bent on getting more involved with Jay although she is warned and there are many red flags. With Naina’ s engagement coming up and the wedding too, Ahana becomes more involved with her family but in the back of her mind she can’t resist looking at the emails from Jay until she learns more about him from Amanda and Tonya and you would think that would end it. But, it does not. With Josh, soon to marry Naina, using his law enforcement resources what he relates to Ahana about Jay sends her on a quest to take him out but will that work or will she become the next victim? Just who is this psychopath and why does she fall prey to him and his wining all the time? With Rohan at her side why does she alienate him too? Her memories of her mother shine through and the one thing she told her might help her to rise above herself and become an independent thinker and her own person. The plot line is multi-complex and each character handles his/her role in a unique and strong manner. Naina is the voice or reason and Rohan is supportive but Jay presents a character that is unlikable, dangerous and could be someone you read about in the news everyday.
Focusing on Dev we learn that her Dad and Naina were perceptive enough to dislike him yet her mother thought he might be a great catch. Why? When dealing with Jay, Naina explained that he’s a psychopath and using her with his manipulations, guilt trips and wines. Sending him cards and gifts for different occasions to get nothing really in return. When going to Yoga class as the author is an expert instructor in this field we learn the value of Yoga, meditation and why Rohan became part of that world too. The ending will surprise readers when you attend the conference and hear her closing remarks. Listen to her mother’s voice coming through: :Forgive yourself, beta; grow from your experiences. Know that you are more than your scars. Believe that you deserve love.” A perfect way to deliver an important message to anyone who has experienced what Ahana has gone through. A great book for women that have been abused in any way, discriminated against and a great way to understand the warning signs of someone like Jay. A great book to help promote NO EXCUSE for violence in all women. Will Ahana realize that Rohan just might be her very own: LOUISIANA CATCH!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine