A Time to Dance
All her life, Veda has trained in classical Bharatanatyam dance. Though her mother wishes she would study engineering or another practical field, Veda knows she can succeed as a dancer, and finds support in her father, grandmother and dance teacher. Her dreams begin to come true when she wins an important dance competition, the first of her teacher’s students to do so --- but on the way home, her bus crashes, and her right leg is crushed in the wreckage. When she wakes up, her leg has been amputated below the knee.
"The most impressive aspect of the novel...is how the spare writing adds so many layers of complexity and meaning with so few words."
Unable to even walk, Veda believes her dreams of dancing are over. She doesn’t know how she can go on when she feels most herself while dancing. She begins to take heart when her handsome American doctor understands her need to dance, and commits to making a prosthesis that will allow Veda to dance again. As she begins the long process of recovery, her family and friends rally around her, even as her schoolmates mock her disability and her beloved dance teacher draws away. In the process of recovery, Veda finds a new teacher and a new friend who help her see the spiritual side of Bharatanatyam dance again --- but can she really recover from such a devastating injury, when even the best prosthesis can never replace her true leg?
A novel in verse, A TIME TO DANCE is short and deceptively simple: a new amputee learns to live her life again. The most impressive aspect of the novel, though, is how the spare writing adds so many layers of complexity and meaning with so few words. Throughout this verse novel, the voice is perfectly honest: the story never shies away from the most challenging or humiliating moments of Veda’s recovery, but it shows Veda’s darkest moments without losing its optimistic core. Veda’s relationships with her family and friends are authentically complicated, with every teenage mishap and embarrassment presented in its own unique context. The detail-rich setting creates a precise and interesting window into life in modern India without being heavy-handed. Most significantly, Veda’s tenacity, determination and growing spirituality are inspiring, as are the stories of other dancing amputees mentioned in the novel.
But the novel isn’t just about being a teenage, dancing, Indian amputee. It’s about being a daughter and a granddaughter, a student and a teacher, a friend and (perhaps!) a girlfriend; and it’s about finding inner stillness through outward motion. At its heart, A TIME TO DANCE explores what it means to lose what you love most, and regain it again when you and it have changed for the better.
Reviewed by Quinn Colter on May 23, 2014