In “If I had to Tell it Again,” author Gayathri Prabhu takes Language where it Hesitates to go

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins India

Pages: 185

Format: Paperback

Rating: 5 stars


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Blurb (as on the cover)

From the aftermath of death emerges this pioneering memoir of a daughter’s difficult love for a flawed, passionate, larger-than-life father.

If I had to Tell it Again is a tapestry of conflicting memories of clinical depression, intense togetherness, mourning, healing, and the shattering of spaces between childhood and adulthood. Charting an emotional minefield with delicacy and honesty, this is a haunting story about the sort of suffering only families can inflict and endure.


“The delicate pink and green pages fluttered in my little hands, my head swimming from the stack of numbers. My mind refused to absorb or retain the natural beauty and logic of numbers that you always enjoyed. Let me be, let me go, I am only six.

But no, we had to wrestle-such is our destiny. The angrier you became, the more obscure seemed the numbers. Mother hovered nervously around the gas stove and the young household help in charge of the crying baby sister disappeared into the sole bedroom. You sat in the chair next to me, lit a cigarette, put your hands to your forehead and pulled your hair in frustration. I was supposed to have memorized the tables but it was not working. The pink and green pages started to float in the film of tears clouding my eyes. But the tears could not drop. Nothing infuriated you more than girls who cried. I got it wrong. I got it wrong again. You hit me. The tears dropped. The anger soared.”- Gayathri Prabhu, If I had to Tell it Again

My Thoughts:

If I had to Tell it Again is an emotional exposé of the innermost contents of the author’s heart. In this memoir, readers witness a daughter in the process of dissecting the complicated relationship she shared with her late father. Beautifully executed with carefully chosen, measured words, this memoir is a tribute to the author’s memories of those she loved and subsequently lost. At the same time, it is also a coming out piece on mental illness. Gayathri Prabhu takes language to precisely where it hesitates to go. Words elude writers when one is attempting to describe the indescribable. The monster that is clinical depression has always existed outside the realm of language as we know it. But the author manages to bring it within the zone of comprehension for readers who might not be aware of it. She taps the full potential of a rich vocabulary to say that which often goes unsaid.

Some of the themes I identified in this memoir are as follows: child sexual abuse, domestic violence, the complications of love, mental illness, death and coping with loss, the breakdown of marriage, and writing as a process of healing.

Some of these are dark themes which might make this book seem ill-suited for the weak-hearted. But it is very much worth spending some time to read and reflect on.

This memoir appears to function as a self-narrative. Interestingly, the author refers to herself, sometimes in the third person and at other times in the first person. I especially liked her conscious use of unconventional punctuation marks which can be used to signify incompleteness or express a particular state of mind or tone. It also provides an insight into how the author views her ‘self’ during different phases of her life before and after her illness.

My favorite part of the memoir was how the author brought it to a close. The last page left me smiling. I think what stood out for me was how relatable this memoir can be to its readers. There were quite a few instances (the above excerpt is as an example) in the narrative where I felt I had been in the narrator’s shoes. Some of these instances made me feel like what is being described could happen to anybody.

This book is a quick read and can easily be finished in one sitting. It is emotionally absorbing and at times, heavy. If I had to Tell it Again shows us how story-telling is a process of healing; not only for the author who wrote it but also for those who care to read it.

“This book reminds us what it really means to be human, fragile, and flawed.”

The author’s brutal honesty and ability to expose the inner workings of her heart through language are truly commendable. I thoroughly enjoyed this lyrical book and feel like a modern reader can surely find something to like about it.

“I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review” 


4 thoughts on “In “If I had to Tell it Again,” author Gayathri Prabhu takes Language where it Hesitates to go

  1. Mithila Menezes says:

    This review does complete justice to the book. I loved the way you described the book so aptly in the first paragraph of the “My Thoughts” section.

    I however felt that this book could not be finished in one sitting. Or maybe I got way too emotionally involved in the book? Either way, it’s a book that must be chewed slowly and understood, because as you pointed out, it describes the undescribable! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. teensvijayan says:

    Depression has to be one of the toughest things one can go through. Being there myself I can understand how difficult it must have been for the author to pen it down.
    Should add this book to my TBR list 🙂
    Great review as always!!

    Liked by 1 person

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