‘Umbilical cords are the lines that connect this world and the other and pulls the souls from there and here. Only mothers are blessed to build these ropes in the deep earth, buried in their bodies. And Frieda, you were blessed seven times.’
- From the book
All Men Are Worshippers is an unsettlingly bold and beautiful story adroitly written by the author Dinesh Prasad.
Set amidst the pre- and post-independence era, the book revolves around the convoluted lives of Frieda, her husband Alfie, her lover Mahesh, and their seven sons; All living under the same roof. Mahesh, the protagonist of the story recounts the life of Frieda, sitting by her deathbed. Frieda is a woman who is loved and revered by the men in her life. She is also a woman abhorred by her mother and the society she lives in. The unfathomable unfortunate circumstances thrown at Frieda and the unconventional yet robust choices she makes, her uniquely blessed seven sons, their uncanny upbringing under the umbrella of two fathers- one legal and the other real, the apparent acceptance of each other’s presence that Mahesh and Alfie display despite the river of angst and torment that they feel flowing under their skin; Everything turns Frieda’s life into an interminable quest for respect and peace. The presence of characters like the Gypsy, Badi Bai, DC, Girija, Urja, etc. only adds on.
All Men Are Worshippers offers the readers plenty of characters, all strongly and passionately crafted by the author, making it unforgettable for the reader. The last I felt any female character so skin deep was Scarlett O Hara from Gone with the Wind — A beautiful flawed woman with an incredible indomitable spirit. It is of course difficult to believe that a woman as strong and yet so conflicted inside, can exist in all its glory. The characters of Mahesh and Alfie make me question if men like these exist in the real world. They are too good to be true. The kind of unwavering love and faith Mahesh holds for Frieda despite his unacknowledged status in society, and the undying adulation and reverence with which Alfie treats his wife Frieda notwithstanding his knowledge of the fact that he is not the actual father of his seven sons is indeed surreal. Even though the entourage of characters in the story is large, each one stands tall even in a small role played by them. Every character has a story. And every story is like a subplot, so the book demands a lot of patience to read.
The expressions used, whether to depict incidents or to describe a woman’s beauty or any act of lovemaking, everything is superlative. Certain scenes are so well written that they seem to be playing in front of your eyes. There is a scene where Frieda is getting ready for her marriage and it feels like poetry in the making.
The lovemaking consumes you. The anguish of an incomplete love creates ripples within you. The guilt in Frieda, Mahesh, and Alfie is palpable enough for you to feel it in your bones.
The book is truly a covenant of love and blood, an expression written by the author himself in the book.
Literary artistry, a remarkable and bold storyline, and larger-than-life characters are what make the book a must-read for readers of literary fiction.
It is messy and gorgeous at the same time.