Problems by Jade Sharma
Jade Sharma's new novel is as relentless as its protagonist, laying bare the messy truths of being human
How do you solve a problem like Maya? Well, you don’t really.
Maya has her troubles in life – addicted to heroin, marriage failing, a non-existant Master’s thesis, a haphazard affair, shaky job security – that just skims the surface.
Much like its protagonist, this book is relentless. Throwing aside defined chapters, Sharma leaps in a stream of consciousness, paragraph after paragraph on a whirlwind tour through Maya’s life, looking around, forwards and backwards, but never losing its pace. Maya doesn’t give those in her life a chance to breathe, an all-encompassing force, good, or bad; as a reader, it’s reflected. Where do you draw the line with Maya? When do you put down the book to temporarily get on with your own life? You don’t.
Literature at large seeks to cure female protagonists – spruce them up, make them palatable. Problems says enough is enough; this is what women were never allowed to be on the page. It hurts to read, it makes you laugh. Maya is bold, unforgiving, challenging and self-destructive. Sharma's writing is witty, brings humour to darkness, and challenges the status quo of the palatable woman in a provocative punch.
"It's an art to make yourself so unloveable," reflects Maya towards the end. And it is. Problems lays the ugly, messy truth of being human out there without apology, and it’s a whirlwind of a read. [Heather McDaid]