Nazia lives in working class Karachi, Pakistan. Her family is not rich, but she and her siblings are still able to go to school, and her mother does not have to work outside the home. However, when Nazia’s father is injured on a worksite and her older brother disappears, the other children are pulled out of school and they all, including Nazia’s mother, have to clean houses for a living. This puts Nazia’s future – including her marriage prospects – in jeopardy, and causes Nazia to grow up far before she should have to.
This was a pretty good book. Nazia’s struggle was difficult to read about. It was awful that all she had to rely on was her own hard work, because her father and brother were deadbeats and her mother was too tired (and perhaps a bit too selfish) to work hard. I’m glad the book ended the way it did.
At the same time, I feel this was very slightly influenced by Western cultural beliefs. I think Qamar did a good job trying to rid the book of those biases, but I could feel a definite Western-view slant in places. I felt a bit sorry for Pakistani men in general, because I know they’re not all deadbeats and yet this portrayed almost every man in the book this way. I think this glossed over the struggles that men have in Pakistan a bit, focusing solely on the women. In a way, that’s okay. It was meant to focus on women’s issues. Still, for my own personal tastes, I would have preferred a bit more balance.
I loved Nazia. I loved that she never gave up her dignity, that she took responsibility when she had to but escaped when she had to also. She was a bit naive in the beginning, but got better through time. Of course, that came with a price, losing her childhood innocence, but at least she could see the truth about her father.
I would recommend this book. It is a quick read, with good pacing and good writing, and with realistic characters. It’s also an interesting look at life in Pakistan, with a lot of cultural information in there about markets, clothing, climate, geography, religion, Urdu language, and so on. That was my favorite part, because I love reading about other cultures.