Harper: HarperCollins. Aug. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780063140066. $26.99. F
DEBUT When a misread horoscope ends the possibility of a marriage to the “so-fair boy” chosen for her, 14-year-old Alma, who belongs to a wealthy Brahmin family, escapes the humiliation by traveling from Delhi to Bombay to stay with her aunt. The year is 1947, and India is in deep turmoil; with its independence from Great Britain comes the Partition, with the country’s division into Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated East and West Pakistan creating a great migration for millions and leading to death estimates numbering in the millions. Traveling by train with a chaperone and an armed guard, Alma is attacked, severely beaten and raped, then taken to Lahore by her abductors, where her fate falls into the hands of a kind man of the lowest class (then called “untouchable,” now better known as Dalit). Meanwhile, as the country is torn apart, Alma’s traditional family is forced to make changes in their lives, and the death of Mahatma Gandhi impacts everyone in the newly formed nations.
VERDICT Indian political history is effectively played out in this intense, focused debut, with Razak’s eloquent writing making historical events seem like they are just taking place now.
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