အသက်ဓါတ် (Essence) is a Buemese novel by ရဲဝင့်သူ (Ye Wint Thu) is story of a guy in his late twenties and his emerging adulthood. Weaving through his own thoughts and the conversations with his two close friends, it tells a very common contemporary adult life but with a dash of supernatural elements.
After committing the unforgivable mistake to one of his two best friends, the narrator leaves their shared apartment and stays in a monastery. While he is contemplating on recent incident, the sudden and bizarre death of his friend pulls the rug out from under him, forcing him into another chaos. When he receives a thumb-drive from his deceased friend with audio recordings on his side of story, he scrutinises on past events and has to talk with his remaining best friend.
Here in the book, the writer tells that the essence of life is what fuels one’s life. Perceptions on various issues like family, adulthood, relationship, and loss, are presented through conversations with his friends and the characters’ introspection. Some of these observations are interesting and believable with lateral thinking that most of adults these days question or challenge the norms socially enforced by previous generations. Perspectives and beliefs through one’s experience in life is told without sounding preachy. The blends of fantastical elements with real world setting is demure but intriguing. It doesn’t feel like a magical realism for me cause the reflections on life are much more prominent than the supernatural element in the book.
Many times in the story, while narrating about the past events, I notice that another flashback coming in so the conversation deviates and a new topic is layered upon. Discussions change yet I can still feel the faint presence of the original conversation. It’s like when we read an article over the internet. At some interesting part, we click ‘open in new tab’ to find out more about certain interesting points. Before we know, we have multiple tabs open and we are in the rabbit hole. I have a mixed feeling about this. Slightly disturbing in narration but at the same time relatable.
Featuring the song ‘All the Little Lights’ by Passenger in the story is very accommodating. I originally loved this song so much and it is satisfying to read the character being on the same wavelength with its meaningful lyrics.
However, one disappointing thing is multiple misspellings in the book. As a spelling nazi and grammar police, it was very discomforting. If the story isn’t this transfixing, I’d probably DNF it after a few chapters. Other than that, it’s and enjoyable read. It’s similar to the experience of having random but constructive and appetising conversations with like minded people.