rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this book from a Goodreads first reads giveaway. I signed up for several books that looked interesting, and was excited to hear I was selected for this one.
I found this book both entertaining and thought provoking. In one sense, this is the story of Saira and her sister. It is the story of of a girl growing into a woman and of the meeting of cultures. It is also the story of an extended family, and many other sibling pairs within it. More than anything else, it is a story of relationships.
Saira is a child of Indo-Pakistani immigrants to the US. Her sister seems to be quite happy in the role she is cast into by their parents’ culture, but that just isn’t the person that Saira is meant to be. Even as a young child, Saira always wants to know “why” and always pushes at her prescribed boundaries.
A trip to Pakistan at age 13 introduces Saira to some of her extended family and her family’s history. She continues asking “why”, and begins to hear the stories of the relationships that helped form who her parents are, and to form their attitudes towards her sister and herself. These come together as she grows older and begins to experience a run of tragedies, ending with one hinted at in the beginning of the book.
I found almost all of the characters interesting, likable (in their own way), and individual. In spite of each character having his/her own personality, each pairing (sibling or romantic) contains an echo from other relationships in the family, through different times and locations.
Going into this book, I didn’t know very much about the history of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Although I was glad to know more, I was saddened to think about how much strife is going on in that part of the world, and reflect on the breadth of it. This is a theme touched on briefly in the book.
The writing was very good. There were a few points where it felt clumsy, or where the reader was told things perhaps we should have been left to discover on our own, but these were rare. For the most part, the writing stayed out of my way, which I appreciate in a book.
I’d recommend this book, and will keep my eyes out for others by the author. I give it a high 4 stars, wishing once again for half stars.