Ambitious Aman Erum shuns the family carpet business in Pakistan and makes his way to America where he shuns his fellow countrymen who have also arrived in America to study. While he makes every attempt to assimilate to his new country, he stays connected to his family in Mir Ali through phone calls and letters. He is most connected to Samarra, the daughter of a family friend. As children, they spent hours together on camping trips. Where Aman Erum is hesitant and fearful, Samarra is brave and daring. And now, as young adults, they’ve pledged their love to each other and Samarra awaits Aman Erum’s return. Every bit the radical that her father was, Samarra pays the price for her anti-government stance, losing both her dignity and Aman Erum.
While Aman Erum hopes to find his fortune in business, Sikandar becomes a doctor. The hospital where he works used to be fully stocked, but with the recent Taliban takeover and American invasion, supplies are short and so are tempers. In addition to his frustration at work, he also has to deal with his wife Mina, who keeps showing up at the homes of grieving families. Sikandar and Mina recently lost their son when the hospital was bombed and the former psychologist is now a shell of herself. Looking for answers to why her son was taken, she believes that she’s helping others by grieving with them, but she’s more of a nuisance.
Hayat is his father’s son. Aman Erum rejected his father’s stories of the old Pakistan and how its freedom must be wrested from its oppressors. Where Aman Erum ignored them, Hayat listened. As an adult, he’s teamed up with Samarra and, together, they’re plotting to bring down the government.
Aman Erum’s story seemed to be the most developed, which is unfortunate because he's the weakest & most selfish brother. Willing to sell out the woman he once loved and others around him in order to gain favor with others is reprehensible. He's undeserving of Samarra's admiration for him and trusting in him proves to be her biggest mistake. Sikandar’s story as a child is almost overlooked, as is Hayat’s. Even as an adult, Sikandar’s story is incomplete without Mina, and Hayat’s without Samarra. I would have loved to see more background on both of those brothers, especially Hayat. Their leap from childhood to adults left out details that could have helped fill in some of the blanks I felt while reading.
At times I was confused as to what was going on with his interactions with a certain government figure. I understood the characters, but because of my lack of depth of knowledge about the historical aspects at that time, it was difficult to understand what was happening toward the end of the book. I was never quite sure if what I thought was happening was actually happening or if I’d just misinterpreted everything. Did Aman Erum sell out those around him once again for his own personal gain? Did Hayat? And what of Sikandar and Mina? How did their situation end. Perhaps that was the author's ultimate goal, to leave the reader guessing about the characters and their outcomes.
Published: February 2016
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