Digital Reads Reviews

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This book has the backdrop of Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Read till the end of post to know what happened that night of December.

What I remember about this tragedy was my parents were shocked and they didn’t speak for 2 days. There was silence in our home, and my father was extremely disturbed for many days. I was too small to understand, but I saw the pictures in the magazine of the people with mutated and destroyed bodies and I got to understand the gravity of the situation. Those pictures were hidden in the crevices of my brain, and this book brought them out.

A beautiful book which dealt with loss of a child, distance between the parents, and to find a way to start living.

Jo and Ian were that couple who had lost their grown son Paul. They moved homes to come closer to Ian’s mother Florrie. Jo joined a yoga group, and she soon found her strength after falling many times. A visit to the dentist showed her a picture of an Indian boy from the gas tragedy who looked exactly like her son Paul, and that got her to want to do something for the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

My first book by Annie Murray, I decided to read the story as all proceeds would go to the medical center which provided free treatment to the survivors and a part of me remembered that tragedy. The story was written poignantly, I liked the emotions emanating from the words. They showed me the strength of a woman. Jo was the face of this story.

The book had other characters who added to the journey that this book was. They made the going extremely easy. Their friendship gave the lighter moments to the book. They gave me hope when the story triggered some old memories of those days.

Overall, the book gave me a fictional story on the backdrop of reality. The greed of the corporations and consequent horror shook me up as I knew the generations of children were still being born mutated, even today.

I received a free ARC from NetGalley and publisher, and this is my journey into its pages, straight from the heart!! STRICTLY HONEST AND UNBIASED.

All my reviews can be read here

Annie Murray was born in Berkshire and read English at St John’s College, Oxford. Her first ‘Birmingham’ novel, Birmingham Rose, hit The Times bestseller list when it was published in 1995. She has subsequently written many other successful novels, including The Bells of Bournville Green, sequel to the bestselling Chocolate Girls, and A Hopscotch Summer. Annie has four children and lives near Reading.

Jo and Ian’s marriage is hanging by a thread. One night almost two years ago, their only child, Paul, died in an accident that should never have happened. They have recently moved to a new area of Birmingham, to be near Ian’s mother Dorrie who is increasingly frail. As Jo spends more time with her mother-in-law, she suspects Dorrie wants to unburden herself of a secret that has cast a long shadow over her family.

Haunted by the death of her son, Jo catches a glimpse of a young boy in a magazine who resembles Paul. Reading the article, she learns of a tragedy in India . . . But it moves her so deeply, she is inspired to embark on a trip where she will learn about unimaginable pain and suffering.

As Jo learns more, she is determined to do her own small bit to help. With the help of new friends, Jo learns that from loss and grief, there is hope and healing in her future.

Publication Date: 17th October 2019

Publisher: Pan MacMillan


Soon after midnight on the morning of December 3rd, 1984, what is still recognized as the world’s worst ever industrial disaster took place in the city of Bhopal in central India.

A plant built to manufacture pesticide, owned by the American Union Carbide Corporation, leaked 40 tons of methyl-isocyanate gas, one of the most lethally toxic gases in the industry, over the surrounding neighbourhood. This was a poor area consisting mainly of slum housing, some of it leaning right up against the factory wall.

People woke, coughing and choking. Panic broke out as many tried to flee for their lives. As they ran, their bodies broke down with toxic poisoning, eyes burning, frothing at the mouth. Women miscarried pregnancies. Many people flung themselves in the river and by dawn, the streets were littered with thousands of bodies. It is estimated that 10,000 died that first night and the death toll continued, within weeks, to a total of about 25,000. Many more have died since. There are still reckoned to be 150 000 chronically ill survivors.

Their plight was not helped by the fact that Union Carbide would not release the name of an antidote to a poison that they did not want to admit was as dangerous as it really was.

The plant, making less profit than had been hoped, was being run down for closure and was in poor condition. Not one of the safety systems was working satisfactorily. In addition, the original design of the factory had been ‘Indianized’ – in other words built more cheaply than would be expected of such a plant in a western country.
This was 35 years ago.

In 1989, a paltry amount of compensation was eventually paid by Union Carbide who did everything a large corporation can do to evade taking responsibility. Their comment was “$500 is about enough for an Indian.” That was $500 to last for the rest of the life of a man who could no longer work to look after his family.

The sickness and suffering from ‘that night’ goes on in those who survived to this day. What is less well known about Bhopal however, is that even before the 1984 gas leak, the company had been dumping toxic waste in solar evaporation ponds. The lining used was about like you would use in a garden water feature. This in a country of heavy rains and floods. In the early 80s, people started to notice how bad their water supply tasted. Cows were dying.

Union Carbide closed the plant. They never cleared the site, which still stands in an area of highly toxic soil and water. The water supply in that area is so contaminated that water has to be brought in from outside.

In 2001 Union Carbide was bought by the Dow Chemical Company, and is, from 2018, now DowDuPont. Despite having acquired all the assets of Union Carbide they are not prepared to accept its liabilities and clear up the site.

In the months after the gas leak in 1984, the nearby Hamidia hospital started to see children born with birth defects more horrific than any they had witnessed before. These days, because of gas- and also water-affected parents, the rate of birth defects is now reaching into a third, soon to be a fourth generation. The main parallel with the kind of extreme toxic effects would be with the children of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

The only free care in this impoverished neighbourhood for people suffering from the effects of gas poisoning, or to help with very severely handicapped children, is from the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

It is to them that all the money from Mother and Child is going.

24 Responses

  1. I had no idea about that tragedy… it really touched me to read about it. I’ll have to read this book, it really caught my attention and it got good rating from you 😊

          1. I hear you girl, I went on a down and just now I reply to you, this message from last decade 😛 had to do thaaat!. Happy New Year!! 😀

  2. I remember the Bhopal Gas tragedy, Shalini. It was pure horror on a massive scale that happened that night. Back then it was mostly newspapers and magazines that gave the news. I was 19 at the time and I remember feeling shocked and sad. But what made me angry like so many others at the time, was the charade of a legal battle that followed and went on for a long time.It was hard to digest the callous stand taken by Union Carbide. Human life can never be so worthless and cheap that it could be compensated with money.

    I was shocked to read in this review that the nightmare continues till today. In this context when someone reaches out to the victims as Jo does in the story, it brings hope that there is still goodness in the world.

      1. Its really sad that we can do very little for those with the genetic problems. Its unfair they have to suffer for something that is not their’ fault.
        And yes, as you said, making money is the only thing the companies are interested in and at any cost

  3. Even more maddening is that still companies like this get away with these acts, even today. Your review and the history of the event make me so angry and sad too. But I’m glad the story itself is one of hope.

    1. They have gotten away and my government is okay with children being born defective and left on the roads… I can’t even begin to say anything. Human life has no value over dollar signs

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