Encounters we have in our past are often triggered by people we meet in our everyday life. Emotional grievances that lay deep in our subconscious can be awakened at any moment if met with analogous emotions created by similar experiences. Psychotherapists call this countertransference—a redirection of feelings towards the client—that must be recognized and reconciled before a client sparks the untamed fire. Without proper introspection of past trauma, any minute moment could cause an eruption, leading to an emotional entanglement and/or skewed medical care.
Introspective strength is the key to self-discovery and fortitude, however it is not the kind of thing the average person will recognize or talk about easily.
Egger’s use of the present day characters as a catalyst into the past was a very powerful narrative tool in terms of realizing how one’s past lives on into one’s future. It allows the reader to be introspective with Achak. TV Boy was exploited to more immoral behavior than any 10-year old should ever experience—maybe not to the same extent of Achak, but it was a similarity that triggered a powerful memory from his youth, leading him into the details of his past.
It is evident that Achak has bottled up abundant anger from his past, which affects his ability to be happy in his current, day-to-day life:
“When I first came to this country, I would tell silent stories,” writes Eggers. “I would tell them to people who had wronged me. If someone cut in front of me in line, ignored me, bumped me, or pushed me, I would glare at them, staring, silently hissing a story to them. You do not understand, I would tell them. You would not add to my suffering if you knew what I have seen.”
This narrative tool not only provides a smooth transition into Achak’s past, but also illustrates a very powerful juxtaposition between two worlds of immorality, two different forms of violence and two different kinds of neglect. It is through the shift between past and present that helps the reader feel Achak’s healing through introspection. Nothing can make up for how he and the lost boys and everyone else that was wronged, but this novel felt like it helped with peace of mind, which ultimately leads to a more contented soul.