The Celeste Experiment
by Omar Imady
Villa Magna Publishing

"[S]he might have called it a quiet, and yet that implied an absence of sound. This was not an absence, but a fullness."

Billionaire Michael aims to prove religion wrong, just as it failed to heal his wife, Celeste, from an untimely death. He assembles experts from around the world and across academic fields in her absence to design a scientific experiment that will beat religion at its own game by reenacting its methods. Hamida is the subject, chosen from the slums of Kolkata for her poverty and esteemed ancestry. Michael brings her to his estate in Britain to be raised in strict parameters. At eighteen, he finds her a suitable partner, Maurice, with whom she travels and prepares for the final stage of the experiment that suddenly goes awry.

Spanning genres, the book’s expansive journey through grief stages is its destination. Starting with Celeste’s illness, the initial tone is urgent, and the pace frantic. Michael gropes for any cure, sparing no expense. The author’s sentences here are clipped and tense. Everything changes when Celeste dies, and the experiment begins. Hamida brings a quiet curiosity to the plot. For example, comparing drab Britain to colorful India, she does not complain but listens and accepts her surroundings, endearing herself to her caretaker, Joy, who experiences “a fullness” like never before.

As Hamida makes friends with animals and people on the estate, the text draws in readers with its lyrical, sensory descriptions of the countryside. Maurice is meant to make her fall for him but is unable to not fall for her. Their love is as infectious as seeing the world through Hamida’s eyes. Her innocent demeanor makes her vivid dreams and unusual, if not magic, skills believable. Hamida becomes not the one studied but the agent who turns the experiment on its head. She defies the objective manner of her treatment with her raw and articulate feelings. The surprise ending is gratifying, and Hamida dignifies humanity as a beautiful, inspiring heroine.

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