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Book Review: The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta

“If a criminal was once a saint and a saint was once a criminal, then who is the criminal and who is the saint”
Blurb:
Inspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all. 
While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will. 
Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints? The Tree with a Thousand Apples is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylized layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling make for a powerful, gripping read.

About the book:
The tree with a thousand apples is a debut book by Sanchit Gupta which is based on a true event, a socio-political thriller set from the year 1990- 2013, a coming of age novel which depicts the lives of three childhood friends Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, who grew up in a peaceful and serene ambience of Srinagar, Kashmir, however, an insurgent event on the evening of 20th January 1990 changed their destiny and they are forced to choose sides. The book highlights multi-layered narrative i.e. the exile of Kashmiri Pundits from their homes, young militants turning directionless, innocent civilians and officers becoming collateral damage.
The story begins with Safeena travelling in a bus to meet his childhood friend, Bilal, further the story shifts the narration to their childhood days in the beautiful and peaceful described Kashmir where they spend their happy days together until an insurgency-hit changed their lives and made them separate their ways.
After twenty years, destiny brings them on a crossroad, however, things are not the same anymore, Safeena is seeking for revenge after she lost both her brother and father, Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear, Dewaan is nowhere to be seen. They no longer know what is right or wrong. The book revolves around the theme of belongingness, culture, atonement and revenge, it also reflects on the universal truth that the lives of innocent people are at stake due to the ideological conflicts on religion and cultures.
My Take on the Book:
What drew me to read this book is not just that the book was longlisted at the Sundance International Screenwriters’ Lab 2017, but because I am fascinated to learn and know more about the lives of people living in Kashmir and the constant conflict the place is under. This book gives you a glimpse on the true life event which occurred around the 90's. I found the book heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time- Heartwarming, because the story of three innocent childhood friends made me feel the pure bliss of enjoying a carefree innocent times with no clue about their future, Heart wrenching, because, one event changed their entire lives and also the image of the place they once called ‘Paradise.’
The author’s way of narrating the story is clear and concise, it takes your imaginative mind to visualize the scenario with his powerful and mind gripping narrative. The description of the once so-called ‘paradise’ turning into the most conflicted place makes you feel sad, helpless, and miserable. The truth on how an ideological conflicts ruin the lives, relationship and emotions of families and individuals make you wonder why humans would want to hurt each other. The plotline is fascinating and it will keep you hooked until the last page. The author has beautifully captured the emotions of Kashmir and the people who helplessly become victims, the profound destruction of lives aftermath which cannot be repaired is saddening. Sanchit Gupta’s writing style took me back to Khaled Hosseini's style of narration. The clear representation of the miserable condition of the three protagonists and the people made me ponder on how the clashes for ideological difference can damage human’s lives forever.  I enjoyed reading the book thoroughly and it was unputdownable once I started off, the storyline caught hold of my full interest, although, there were few typos, it did not stop me from reading it as it was intense and gripping. 
 I would surely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a realistic fiction, or anyone who wish to get an idea on the insurgent hit that occurred in Kashmir during 1990. Grab a copy today and find out the story of three friends who after an unforgettable incident are left to choose between sinful criminals or pacifist saints.

Book Details:
Title: The Three with a Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Price: 273
ISBN-10: 9385285513
ISBN-13: 978-9385285516
My Rating: 4.6/5

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