Book Review: Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi

Amazon.com: Somebody Loves You: 9781913505165: Arshi, Mona: Books

Title: Somebody Loves You

Author: Mona Arshi

Genre: Literary Fiction

Number of Pages: 176

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes


Ruby is the child of Indian immigrants living in Britain and an odd girl who refuses to speak to anyone. Her mom is clinically depressed and in and out of mental hospitals and her dad is just trying to raise her and her sister as best he can. Somebody Loves You is told through brief, dreamlike vignettes, following Ruby’s life as an outsider among people who don’t seem to understand her.

She’s the target of racist bullying but racism isn’t the focus of the novel, which focuses instead on a broader definition of otherness. There’s no resolution for any of the plot threads it introduces, which might frustrate some readers. I found it a little irritating (at the end I was kind of like this is it?) but I think it also adds to a heightened sense of realism. Sometimes serious mental illness is a lifelong problem with no successful treatment or recovery.

The same goes for the sexual assault of Ruby’s sister by the neighbor’s son: no resolution whatsoever. Which is realistic in many cases but also frustrating. Because of the way it was written I had trouble following the characters’ ages in different portions of the book. Ruby is a somewhat static character, refusing to speak but also to change or develop as a person. Her trauma keeps her in a kind of stasis throughout.

The writing is beautiful (Mona Arshi is primarily a poet and I think this is her first novel) but I found it hard to connect with the characters. Again, this is a very personal thing; something was missing for me emotionally even though I liked the idea behind it and the languid, dreamy feeling of the prose. I’m glad I read it but I’m not sure it’s something that will really end up sticking with me.

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