The Worst Daughter Ever – What Critics Are Saying

This is a collection of all the reviews The Worst Daughter Ever is receiving. This collection will be updated regularly. The Worst Daughter Ever is published by Rupa Publications and is available at bookstores worldwide via Amazon, Flipkart and local bookstores.

  1. Arti Metroreader Says
  2. A L’ouest Says
  3. TheReadingCorner Says
  4. Kohleyed Me/Muffy Tales Says
  5. Kavita Rajesh Says
  6. Meldramatic Bookworm Says
  7. Enakshi Johri (Alive Shadow) Says
  8. Meenakshi Ramakrishnan Says
  9. Padmajha Suresh Says
  10. Shilpa Suraj Says

The Struggle Is Real

There are three, at the most, four people in the wide world (virtual and
otherwise) who know what a hot neurotic mess I really am. Writer Gal has
*issues* peeps – some of them have been solved and shelved away neatly, while others rear their ugly heads from time to time.

Today, the issue bits have turned me into a piping hot mess and, I figure,
it’s time to share this aspect of my life with y’all. The ugly, messy, full of
self-doubt, and epic meltdowns part.

The last two months have been crazy hard on me – personally and
professionally. Oh, not because of setbacks but because of the sheer amount of stuff that I needed to handle and take care of, on every single front. All
while battling an insane case of sinusitis which finally only cleared after I religiously did something called a nasal wash (try it, next time your nose is blocked. It is fucking magic!)

I did the final read through of The Worst Daughter Ever on the day of my grandfather’s cremation because deadlines wait for nothing.

Yep, the book where I wrote about a beloved grandparent passing on was actually put to bed on the day my beloved grandparent passed away. The sheer, heart-breaking irony of it was like fate actually laughing at my words.

*Tears were shed, peeps. Tears. Were. Shed.*

I had to see my mom suffer through almost a decade of chronic, nagging pain, plus five years of her losing weight and appetite and finally two months of intense physical therapy to emerge the strong, confident, victorious woman she always has been for me. All while literally keeping our large, grieving family together with nothing more than her steely spine and titanium knee.

I watched my father cry. Really weep copiously and I don’t think I’ll ever
recover from it

In the middle of all the personal upheavals, a super-secret extremely cool
project was started and ended in three days.

My friends and I started an amazing new venture to talk about that most
stigmatic of all topics – romance! And the bonds of community beat all else,
hands down.

Another cool project was brainstormed on my way back from an epically cool event just last week in the rickshaw ride, start to finish.

Two books were released, one in a beloved series that people wait patiently
for. The second one, the one about the grieving granddaughter, is now
out. And book releases involve a kind of pumped energy I sometimes don’t really have.

Because, and this is the kicker, talking about stuff that matters to me
scares me. Makes me feel ashamed. Makes me feel small. Like I am not worthy of it.

The tasks seem never-ending and always far-fetched and that’s how they are supposed to be if we want to achieve the extraordinary and my mom has always encouraged me to do so but…

There is no earthly explanation for this, except, the more I do when my task
lists are all clear for the day – the less I feel I have done.

The less I actually am.

It’s not about comparisons, because that is a rabbit hole I try and avoid as
much as I can. But…sometimes, not always, not every day, I struggle.

I struggle with balancing responsibilities at home and at work. I struggle
with being enough. With loving myself even when I feel I’m not worthy of it, like today. I struggle with being okay with finishing tasks on my task list and not adding more to it.

I struggle with the most horrible thought a writer, this writer, can ever
have – What if the book I wrote last was the last one I’ll ever write?

I usually vent to my three-four persons who roll their eyes, give me hugs,
pat me on the back and say, woman take the day off. But, today the day seems endless and the struggle is real.

If there is one resolution I’d like to keep from this birthday, it would be to not let the struggle get me down. And to know, with every particle of my being, that I’ll be fighting fit tomorrow. Because, I always am! 

Until next time,

Writer Gal

 

Phase Four

Mixing it up with the Writer Gal Letters are short stories that I experiment with, for form, for storytelling, for exploring the darkest, most heinous side of human nature. And, because my MA lit prof once told me I could never write a short story.

Phase Four is part six of a short titled ‘Remorseless Beauty.’ I hope you enjoy it.

Short Story (7)

 

“Oh my god. OH MY GOD,” I shook my head in negation as Nurse Theresa explained that Ginger had been let go.

Because well, the common term was, she’d snapped. Right at her sick, beaten daughter’s bedside. She’d started screaming and had to be finally sedated. Which is where she was right now.

Sedated. In her own little room in the psych ward, where she was on suicide watch. It was so pathetic and sad. And who’d have thought something like that was hiding beneath Ginger’s exterior.

Nobody mentioned the nightly visits that Ned the Janitor was paying her. Nobody mentioned anything. It was too horrible. Too grotesque.

Like somebody’s nightmare had come true.

Delilah Appleton died three days after she was hospitalized from severe internal bleeding, multiple injuries and blunt head trauma that couldn’t be detected because she never regained consciousness.

Ginger Appleton had been restrained in a psych room until further evaluation.

After about six weeks, I went in to look at my favorite nurse. She was behind a locked door. A holding cell. Dressed in hospital greens, looking as lifeless as a corpse could look. Her eyes were wild with terror and grief. And something resembling hatred.

I looked at her, and sighed a little.

I have always been aware of my own power. The best and the worst in me. And I have always strived to do better than both. It’s not nature, it is compulsion. It’s what I was born with.

The most destructive of my tendencies, the most perfect of my behaviors, I have embraced them both and made apologies for neither. It’s not an admirable trait, but I don’t want to be admired.

To be figured out, to be understood is just one layer of how we operate. And I like my level better. The capability, the power of illusion, of being able to manipulate destinies is so much more. Ginger and her daughter were the rabbits in my hat.

Breaking her, in the end, had been so easy.

And I went out with Trev on one side of my wheelchair. And my parents on the other. My time in the hospital had been well-spent. And as I locked that picture of Ginger’s snapped eyes in my head for all time to come, I whispered to myself.

Phase Four, check.

I drove away from the hospital with my family close beside me. It seemed, after all, that I could do anything I wanted. To ruin someone, to manipulate their destiny, to be able to commit monstrous acts without a qualm or remorse, what kind of person would do that?

What reasons would there be for doing something like that?

I gave you mine.

I wonder, though, sometimes, is it enough?

FIN

 

Tainted

Mixing it up with the Writer Gal Letters are short stories that I experiment with, for form, for storytelling, for exploring the darkest, most heinous side of human nature. And, because my MA lit prof once told me I could never write a short story.

Tainted is part five of a short titled ‘Remorseless Beauty.’ I hope you enjoy it.

 

Short Story (8).png

Three hours later, I sat in a state of shock while Principal Stevens explained things. Things like an internet profile, abuse of school property and gang rape echoed in my aching head. And I didn’t really understand anything. I couldn’t understand anything at all.

“Mrs. Appleton, do you understand what I am saying?”

I said nothing. Words like expulsion and lawsuits were ringing in my ears. And I still couldn’t comprehend anything. My cell phone, the one I had finally switched off in desperation, was an accusation as it sat on the oak table of the Principal’s office.

I heard THE VOICE in my head. It was all I could hear.

The principal shoved a monitor to my face. Just to get me to focus. And there it was. My picture and my profile. Nude. Bare. Laid for all to see.

Tainted. Wrong. WRONG.

The scream rose in my head again. The Principal clicked a button and Del’s beautiful face filled the screen. And the five words that were in screaming bold letters, they filled the rest of the page. I shook her head. How could this have happened? Who would do something like this to my baby girl? Who would be so monstrous?

“I’m sorry,” I said dully, for lack of anything else to say.

“Mrs. Appleton, I am sure you appreciate the gravity of the situation. You do, don’t you? You can understand why Delilah can no longer study here and I know, I know it’s a hard time for you now. But we at Hemery have enough problems and enough statistics to deal with. Delilah invited this trouble on herself and we can’t help her anymore. With her substance abuse and everything else…” Principal Stevens trailed off.

“Del, where is she?” I whispered.

“In the Trauma ward of Hemery General. I am so sorry, Mrs. Appleton. I wish–” The Principal shrugged. What could he say, exactly?

I nodded, even though the pounding in my head increased unbearably. “Someone can take you there, Mrs. Appleton. Although I think, Social Services is getting involved. Someone’s there right now, taking your daughter’s statement, if I am not wrong.” He added almost as an apology. An afterthought

I barely heard him.

Where did I go wrong? How could I face my baby now? The tears started again. I broke down. It was embarrassing and no one seemed to want to stop me. To give me comfort. The curse of a world that had seen it all. That could only condemn and judge.

I wanted to tell them, I DIDN’T DO IT. I am not that woman. I AM NOT! You know me. I am part of your school’s Booster Club. But who would believe her? There were phone calls. Emails. There was legitimacy to everything. And who would believe a Scarlett woman? So I didn’t protest. What was the point? And now my baby, my little girl, the tears came down in full force.

What had they done to her!

Monsters.

Vicious monsters. MY GOD…where was the justice in all of this?  Where was God when you needed him? Why didn’t he come to help my fourteen-year-old daughter?

####

Ginger walked in a daze to the bed of her traumatized daughter. She looked so pale, so lifeless, breathing through tubes. The nurse she was, the mother she had been cried out at the small form that lay on the bed. And there was a dark-dressed woman who was looking at her curiously. Distastefully.

That lady from Social Services.

Statistic. They were just another statistic.

Like the lives of Grace and Delilah Appleton had been reduced to two profiles on the most popular pornographic site and whatever judgments the authorities could make from then on. The School. Social Services. Every person with a penis who had access to the internet. The Hospital Board which would soon get to her. Now that everyone knew her big secret. The courts, if the school was anything to go by, would come after her too.

Prison…..Ginger started hyperventilating as spiraling images of disaster started hitting her, one after the other. All of them more horrific than the next. What was she going to do? WHAT WAS SHE GOING TO DO?

Ginger screamed then. As if she couldn’t stop screaming …

Eyes wild with unseen terror. Face tearing up in pain and agony and anger. Her body collapsing under the terrible strain it was under. And all the while her daughter, victim of a vicious gang rape lay in her semi-conscious state and breathed through tubes while a monitor beeped for her. The lady from Social Services asked for help and figured this one was a lost cause before anything could even be implied.

She thought as to what she could put in her report and not condemn the daughter to prison…

To Be Continued…

Ginger Snaps

Mixing it up with the Writer Gal Letters are short stories that I experiment with, for form, for storytelling, for exploring the darkest, most heinous side of human nature. And, because my MA lit prof once told me I could never write a short story.

Ginger Snaps is part four of a short titled ‘Remorseless Beauty.’ I hope you enjoy it.

Short Story (5)

I walk into work in a daze. Everything inside me is hurting. And it is all I can do to keep from screaming. My cell buzzed again, and my hands shake as I disconnect it. The number was from Del’s school. I frown. What happened to my baby girl? The school couldn’t have gotten wind of this…I try and keep it together, blink back tears. The last two days have been a nightmare.

I take a deep breath, round a private corner in the Nurses’ station, and punched in the green button for last call. Waited for the ringtone to sound in her ear and for the operator to pick up the call. “This is Ginger Appleton calling for Delilah Appleton. It’s her school and I got a call a second ago. Sorry, I disconnected the call before I could answer it.”

“Ms. Appleton, it is best if you come down to school immediately. Very advisable. Principal Stevens would like to speak with you on an urgent matter.” The receptionist instructed in a distant voice and I could hear her disdain and disapproval through the phone. I almost had a heart attack then and there, as I think of what could have happened.

My darling baby girl! If somehow the school found out about that porno site and they considered themselves to be Puritanical, they’d never let Del in again! Puritanical. Where is my DAMN NOTEPAD!!

I pushed the door to my favorite patient closed but not before the girl called out, “Hey, Ginger. What’s up? No word of the day. Something wrong?”

And I was tempted, very tempted to confide in the sweet girl who lay on that bed and soldiered on despite whatever hand life had dealt her. But the girl wouldn’t understand. MY god, I couldn’t understand. A prostitute…a prostitute…someone had taken all her information and turned me into a high class hooker!

And all my dreams for my daughter, a nice home in the burbs, a nifty computer and her job giving her full satisfaction. Her daughter going off to college and returning every holiday with more outrageous stories to tell…

I couldn’t stop the cry that tore out of me. The sobs that took over. I sank to the floor of the room which held  my favorite patient and leaning against the back of the door, cried like I couldn’t stop. And of course, I couldn’t. The girl was looking at me in alarm.

“What’s the matter, Ginger? Is everything alright?” She asked tentatively, while she held out one POP cast-hand stiffly. The gesture paining her. I shook my head and stood up. Tears streaming down my face. I know my nose is red and my mascara is streaking down my cheeks. I also know I have to get my act together before I go in to see Principal Stevens. I have no answer to give the girl.

My cell phone rang as I walked out of the patient’s room and into the ladies’. I repair my makeup as best as I can. Splash cold water on my face, drying it off and feeling the texture of everything that touched me. Everything that tainted me. I am an honest, God-fearing woman. I go to church, paid my taxes and kept my mouth shut when life kept on dealing lemons.

How much more was a soul supposed to endure?

I picked it up this time. And trembled, actually trembled when I heard the sweaty, smarmy voice on the line. “Hi, sweetheart. Hot Mama. I am waiting for you. Ever since I saw you I’ve been waiting for you. With the whip and my hard, hard cock and the get-up and…”

“Stop it. STOP IT. Please,” I whispered as she made the sign of the cross to ward off evil. Like it would stop the monster spouting vicious things.

“Oh, you’ll beg me. You’ll beg me to stop, won’t you? Isnt that what you like best? Playing hard to get? Delaying, denying, pretending you DON’T WANT IT.” The voice breathed and I shake so hard I am surprised I haven’t toppled over.

“Go away. In the name of God, GO AWAY.” I scream now. The voice laughed as he fed on my terror. I wished I hadn’t picked up the call. It was terrifying in a way nothing was. Not the ex leaving me, not giving birth in an alley or raising a daughter on my own. Not even watching my child destroy herself was scaring me like this VOICE did.

“I’ll find you, Hot Mama. Because you want me to, Hot Mama. I’ll find you.”

I straighten my trembling shoulders and walk back to the Nurses’ station. Theresa and Todd were there, as was Ned the Janitor. They were all looking at a computer screen and I was suddenly afraid to approach them.

What were they looking at with such intensity?

“Guys.” Theresa startled, looked at me with a guilty smile. Todd was a little slower to glance at me. In fact, he couldn’t meet my eyes at all, staring over my left shoulder. And Ned, I suppressed a shudder as I saw the way Ned was checking me out. Like he was the VOICE.

Like he was saying all those terrible, terrible things. Like he enjoyed things like that.

“I have to go, now. Del’s school called. Some sort of emergency. I gotta go. Cover for me?” I asked Theresa, already grabbing my stuff.

Theresa looked back at the screen and nodded. Just nodded.

I ran out without a backward glance.

To Be Continued…

Three Phases

Mixing it up with the Writer Gal Letters are short stories that I experiment with, for form, for storytelling, for exploring the darkest, most heinous side of human nature. And, because my MA lit prof once told me I could never write a short story.

Three Phases is part three of a short titled ‘Remorseless Beauty.’ I hope you enjoy it.

Short Story (4)

 

The Sweet Girl

Mixing it up with the Writer Gal Letters are short stories that I experiment with, for form, for storytelling, for exploring the darkest, most heinous side of human nature. And, because my MA lit prof once told me I could never write a short story.

The Sweet Girl is part two of a short titled ‘Remorseless Beauty.’ I hope you enjoy it.

Short Story (1).png

She was a sweet girl, that one.

Never complaining every time, someone came to prod her or poke her. Took her meds on time and didn’t have a hissy fit like some seventeen-year-olds I’ve seen in my time. It was nice to know that there were some children who still understood the good values their parents had instilled in them. Ooh, instilled. That was for the crossword. I wrote it down in my special notepad, where I stored such words for future use.

My own special dictionary, I pat it affectionately I slipped it back into my pocket. I straightened my sweater, and swallowing the last bit of coffee I allowed myself on the six-hour long shift. I left my desk at the nurses’ station. Time to check on my favorite patient of the day.

“How are you, sweetheart?” I read the patient’s chart and checked her vitals on the monitor that beeped continuously.

The patient smiled. “Am feeling better. Less doped up. Miss the morphine, through. My hair hurts like crazy, and I look a complete mess, I am sure.”

I felt very maternal towards this small slip of a girl. Poor thing, to be stuck like this. For weeks on end, it wasn’t fair. Thank god, at least the poor girl had survived her terrible ordeal.

“You want me to wash it for you? I could do that, if you like.” I offer instantly, adjusting the sheets on the girl’s bed. Her mother was working this week too.

“Would you? I’d be soooo grateful.” The girl smiled some more through the cannula stuck to her nose. Such a sweet and innocent girl. Would have been a shame if she had died.

“Oh, sweetheart. No need to be grateful and all that. It’s my duty to keep you nice and comfortable. No trouble at all.” I fussed with the pillows until they were just so and then stood back and watched the whole effect. Oh yes, the girl was comfortable enough.

“Now how’s that boyfriend of yours treating you? He doesn’t overtax you, does he? Physical rehab at this stage is so important. You be sure to tell him that.” I removed my pad and added Overtax to the page.

“Noah’s a sweetheart, don’t worry. Anywho, you’ve been amazing to me, Ginger. I swear I’d go nuts here if it wasn’t for you. So I did something for you. Get me my laptop, will you?”

The girl grinned with such promise that I did not have the heart to deny her. Although, the doctors had forbidden her to use the computer for long stretches of time, but what was a soul to do? People did not read books like they used to, and there was only so much sleep a body could take without slipping into a coma.

Sharp smart girl like her needed to use that brain of hers, I reasoned, as I dragged the lightweight laptop from its hiding place in her medicine cabinet. Since no one else administered her meds, our secret was safe. Placing it on the bed, I closed the door to make sure no one would interrupt our secret time, and then went back to her little pad of words.

Someday, when I saved up enough money, and my daughter was in college, I would buy myself one of these nifty machines and solve as many crosswords as I wanted to.

The laptop powered and my patient quickly tapped in a few keys. Turned the screen around to face me. I gasped.

It was me! In some very fancy clothes, but it was my face, certainly. And there was my Delilah, my fourteen-year-old daughter, next to me. It was Delilah’s prom picture, airbrushed to perfection. The prom my baby could not attend because we didn’t have the money for the dress. I am dazzled. “How did you..”

“You remember that picture of yours and Del’s that I asked for. Well, now, you have a better picture to hang in its place. And a great memory to go with. I hope you like it.”

I blink back tears. How like a mom! “Thank you. Thank you so much for this gift, baby girl,” I whisper. The girl tapped a few more keys and a CD slid out from the drive.

“Here.” She handed me the CD. “Drop this off at Kinko’s and you’ll have a sweet print. You can even blow it up to poster size if you want to.”

“Oh, dear, sweet girl,” Ginger whispered fervently. Only the girl knew how much trouble Delilah was in. With the drugs and the boyfriends and the…I suppress a shudder. Doubly grateful I know of at least one seventeen-year-old girl who was not into drugs and inappropriate boys. I squeezed the girl’s shoulder and taking the CD, wiped one hand over my eyes as I walked out.

Now if only Delilah would learn some sense from this one here…

To Be Continued…

The Red Crayon

Mixing it up with the Writer Gal Letters are short stories that I experiment with, for form, for storytelling, for exploring the darkest, most heinous side of human nature. And, because my MA lit prof once told me I could never write a short story.

The Red Crayon is part one of a short titled ‘Remorseless Beauty.’ I hope you enjoy it.

Short Story.png

Proper destruction requires careful planning. But it was going to be fun. Careful planning always was. Ultimately, it all comes down to creating the perfect lie. The perfect illusion of truth. A truth constructed like a hall of mirrors so that you entered a naïve little innocent looking for a fun ride, and by the time you came out, you were unrecognizable.

It’s why I do what I do. Sure, I enjoyed the game. And it was about seeing how well I played, how many moves I could make before somebody caught on. But…like a magic trick, I made the rabbit appear out of the hat. And everyone just saw the rabbit. No one saw the hat.

People don’t really want the truth. They prefer the lie.

You see, in truth, it was about getting away with it. And what you can do. Proper destruction meant stretching the limits, ripping the fabrics of reality and creating the most believable illusion.

Why do I do it? I ask you, dear reader, Why not?

#####

It started when I was four.

I had broken a crayon in the kindergarten class mom sent me to because she couldn’t stay home and take care of me. I had friends, I was friendly and curious just like the others in my class. Belinda, Melissa, Georgia, Aaron, Nikhil, Harun.

I had no motive to do it. Everybody liked me. My teacher adored me. They thought I was sweet and nice and I had a beautiful smile. I suppose, I still am. It’s nice to be thought of that way. Knowing what I have inside of me, knowing what I am capable of…damn, now I am getting ahead of myself.

So, anyway, I was four. The red crayon broken. Done that on purpose. And the girl sitting next to me, coloring inside the lines of her blue unicorn looked at me and smiled.

“It’s alright,” she said. Then she handed me her red crayon. “You can use mine.”

I smiled. Broke hers too. She started crying. The teacher, Mrs. Gupta, came over to see what the fuss was about. And the girl said, I broke her crayon. And then I did it. I said those words that gave me a taste of what I could do. I smiled my beautiful smile, and spoke, in a really wobbly voice.

But she did it first.

She broke my crayon, so I broke hers back. And I started crying too. Wailing actually. Tears are so easy. Tears of joy, tears of sorrow, tears of rage and frustration. Tears you cry when your stomach hurts so bad you want to rip it off. Tears of pain because you can’t live with the things that are inside of you.

That day, I cried, because it was needed. Boy, did I kick up a fuss. And, of course, the teacher never punished me. Or her. The girl never spoke to me again. I think, she was the only one, the only person who saw me for what I truly was. The perfect mirror.

A red crayon-holding girl, who was coloring a blue unicorn who didn’t want to be my friend, because I lied. I had lied so well. So convincingly. She was half right. I did it for all those reasons. And one more.

Because I couldn’t help myself.

I don’t want to bore you withthe details of who I really am. About what inner monologues go on inside of me. Suffice it to say, the day I broke the red crayon, twice, I knew. What I was capable of. What I could get away with it.

Everything. Anything.

Hearts and morality don’t bother me. Neither do right and wrong. I believe in the absolute sole value of my life based on one single rule. Why not?

It’s incredibly selfish and incredibly simple. I am not talking about ethical follies like murder, robbery, and all that pathetic anti-social crap that criminals go through to justify their behavior. I am not talking about psychiatric crap like being the best that you can be, although it rates way up there. I am not talking addiction or lying or adultery. Or any of the other million vices that we are capable of.

I am talking about things that are beyond being a pathological liar or a sociopath. You could classify me as both. It doesn’t matter. I am who I am. I don’t love misery. I have not had a rotten childhood. I like being happy, and I like people.

Sociopaths manipulate people because they don’t like the state of equilibrium the others exist in. The state of balance that they themselves can’t have because of whatever motivations have set them on their retarded path.

I don’t want people to suffer because I take vicious, voyeuristic pleasure in their pain. Not a psychopath either, for the very same reasons.

You’ll be thinking now. Okay! Big deal! She broke a crayon. My mom’s favorite perfume bottle. A fucking video game. A boy’s heart. I did all of that.

I even broke my car, wrapping it around a tree because I was too drunk to see where I was going. And of course, I wanted to see what would happen to me if I drove the car into a tree. Why not? The car got totaled, I ended up in the hospital. And I was grounded.

I got away with it, though.

And there, when I lay in bed for about two months. I figured out several things. I wanted to go to college. And become whoever made me the happiest. I wanted a gorgeous job, a pricey apartment with a view, a generous credit allowance and a man who adored me.

The time I spent in the hospital, I also realized I was deeply bored. Single linear trajectory towards a single linear goal. So, because it was no fun sitting there, plotting my own future, I decided to do something else. An experiment, if you will.

The nurse’s name was Ginger. She was sweet, a little fat, very motherly towards me and very understanding about the sneaky visits that my boyfriend Noah used to make every night. Or, almost every night, once the cast was off. Now, he made me happy. And I love him. We are engaged now.

So why did I do it? Why did I manipulate Ginger, the sweet and understanding nurse to take her own life? Well, you can actually see it. For yourself.

To Be Continued…

Writer Gal Letter #5

Let’s Talk About Alpha Assholes And How Miss Sloane Is The Ultimate Alpha Asshole

Let’s Talk About is a series of blog posts where Writer Gal gives her (unsolicited) take on pop culture – aka books, TV series, and movies – that she shamelessly binge watches in the name of ‘research.’ SPOILERS GALORE!!!

misssloane

In December 2017, I wrote an entire book watching John Madden’s Miss Sloane in parts.

I’d seen Miss Sloane before and was blown away by the music (thank you Max Richter) and the fact that this movie was written for a woman. A woman who controlled everything and everyone from the first scene to the very last.

The bare bones of the story are thus – Washington’s most famous and most powerful lobbyist takes on the gun lobby (fun fact, the second-richest lobby in the United States of America closely followed by Tobacco and Pharma) and, in the process, gets decimated for daring to do so. The story is told in non-linear narrative form and I actually contemplated writing it down for the pure pleasure framing it would give me.

As a romance writer and a feminist, this movie should have been abhorrent to me. In a pivotal scene (fuck, all scenes are, TBH), Madeline Elizabeth Sloane says super casually, “Gender doesn’t interest me.” She doesn’t consider herself to be pro-women or a feminist and is very upfront about it.

Yet, this movie spoke to me. To the heart of me. To the brain I possess that never stops asking why.

I sincerely believe that watching this movie turned Crossing Lines, the second book in GEEKS OF CALTECH, into the strongest, most coherent, best possible version of a love story I could write in 2017 and beyond.

Miss Sloane is a study in a feminine portrayal of a character that has hitherto been the bastion of males. She is an Alpha Asshole.

The Alpha Asshole

She is contemptuous of traditional heteronormative roles and relationships eschewing them for the simple transaction of hiring a male prostitute for sex. Food is just a need that needs to be fulfilled. “It’s like going to the toilet.” Nothing more. Nothing less.

She is shamelessly egotistical and uses handshakes to drive home a point as much as she uses her manically sharp laughter. Her lipstick is red, blood red, and she applies it with the same precision as a general pinning medals on his chest. And with the same casual dismissiveness – the symbolism of the act is more important than the act itself.

Sloane uses people, ruthlessly and with full knowledge of exactly what she is doing and why she is doing it.

She is the personification of the unreliable narrator – by being completely and convincingly reliable.

Sloane doesn’t form friendships and when she is defending herself at a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, you see exactly what she wants you to see. A granite wall.

When she breaks down, over a puerile quip about the Asian Republic of Indonesia, the viewer witnesses the decline of a woman who has so far held it together through nerves, balls of steels and pharmaceutical dependency. She yells. She screams. She is articulate in both. And she is aware, every single second, of what she is doing.

The breakdown of a powerful, arrogant figure, be it in politics, sports, entertainment, is always met with a kind of voyeurism that is not surpassed in human history. People love watching people fail. This generalization is probably as pedantic and judgmental as ‘History is written by the winners’ but it is factual. International espionage has been largely successful because it was set up to ensure governments, industrial and defense military complexes failed.

Failure. Is. Interesting.

Failure allows people to rise above every single prejudice and perception that society has conferred upon them and be more. Or less. That makes it interesting.

It’s exactly why Miss Sloane works.

Breaking Down The Powerful

The breakdown of a woman who takes on the NRA single-handedly and spearheads a lobbying campaign that is one step ahead of their opponents is a thing of absolute, precise beauty.

It shows itself in the way she throws everything, including her beloved Blackberry off a conference room table and takes sobbing, trembling breaths that take a long time to control. It manifests in the way she leaks tears (leaks not cries) while kissing the escort she’s hired for human interaction for the night and then realizes she’s made herself too vulnerable.

Her breakdown is never more magnificent as when she wears her dark red lipstick one last time and brings down the ceiling of Capitol Hill and the Senate Ethics Committee crashing down on her head.

Miss Sloane is a perfectly told story. It revolves around a central character who is beautiful, dark, avenging, vengeful, perfect, broken, brittle, powerful, smart, and sly. All the characteristics that make her an Alpha Asshole.

She wants, she takes, and damn the consequences. People are resources, nothing is above the cause. Not even her own career. Never mind the lives of someone she considers friend.

But the first and most important reasons that Miss Sloane is an Alpha Asshole is because she wants to win. Win at any and all costs. Win by beating down the opponent and use any methods to beat them. Win because losing means…

We never really come to know what losing means to Madeline Elizabeth Sloane because she doesn’t lose.

Lessons Learned

When I write a book, as I do now, as I hope to do in 2057, these are the lessons I hope I will remember from Miss Sloane, John Madden’s breathtaking direction and Richard Perrera’s screenplay. Yes. A man wrote it. The irony is precious.

  1. Narrative fallacies make a story unbearably interesting.
  2. As do punchy dialog and an unlikeable central character with very little in the way of backstory. PRESENT is as important as past. Perhaps more.
  3. Action matters. Tears leak out of your eyes versus You cry. How you present action matters.
  4. Winning is everything – but the way you define winning and what it means to you is what makes the story work.
  5. Female characters who hold all the power are inevitably made to pay for it. Maybe more so than a man. Telling their story is required.
  6. Writing Jessica Chastain as my Main Female Character would only improve everything I ever write. (She is not Dr. Naina Shah or Shiven Pal from Crossing Lines, though, so no comparison can be made.)

I am Aarti V Raman and I am a romance writer and a feminist. I do not endorse Alpha Assholes. But, goddamn, they make for amazing character studies.

And one day, if am really fortunate, I’d like to attempt a Miss Sloane.

Till next time,

Writer Gal

Feature Image: CityWeekly

GIF: Bestanimations

Trailer: YouTube/MissSloane