How It Happened – Shazaf Fatima Haider
Dadi, the imperious matriarch of the Bandian family in Karachi, swears by the virtues of arranged marriage. All her ancestors – including a dentally and optically challenged aunt – have been perfectly well-served by such arrangements. But her grandchildren are harder to please.
Haroon, the apple of her eye, has to suffer half a dozen candidates until he finds the perfect Shia-Syed girl of his dreams. But it is Zeba, his sister, who has the tougher time, as she is accosted by a bevvy of suitors, including a potbellied cousin and a banker who reeks of sesame oil.
Told by the witty, hawk-eyed Saleha, the precocious youngest sibling, this is a romantic, amusing and utterly delightful story about how marriages are made and unmade—not in heaven, but in the drawing room and over the phone.
Broken Verses – Kamila Shamsie
Fourteen years ago, famous Pakistani activist Samina Akram disappeared. Two years earlier, her lover, Pakistan’s greatest poet, was beaten to death by government thugs. In present-day Karachi, her daughter Aasmaani has just discovered a letter in the couple’s private code-a letter that could only have been written recently.
Aasmaani is thirty, single, drifting from job to job. Always left behind whenever Samina followed the Poet into exile, she had assumed that her mother’s disappearance was simply another abandonment. Then, while working at Pakistan’s first independent TV station, Aasmaani runs into an old friend of Samina’s who gives her the first letter, then many more. Where could the letters have come from? And will they lead her to her mother?
Merging the personal with the political, Broken Verses is at once a sharp, thrilling journey through modern-day Pakistan, a carefully coded mystery, and an intimate mother-daughter story that asks how we forgive a mother who leaves.
Duty-Free – Moni Mohsin
Jane Austen’s Emma, transported to the outrageous social melee of 21st-century Lahore.
Our plucky heroine’s cousin, Jonkers, has been dumped by his low-class, slutty secretary, and our heroine has been charged with finding him a suitable wife – a rich, fair, beautiful, old-family type. Quickly. But, between you, me and the four walls, who wants to marry poor, plain, hapless Jonkers?
As our heroine social-climbs her way through weddings-sheddings, GTs (get togethers, of course) and ladies’ lunches trying to find a suitable girl from the right bagground, she discovers to her dismay that her cousin has his own ideas about his perfect mate. And secretly, she may even agree.
The Karachi Deception – Shatrujeet Nath
Three commandos of the Indian Army’s elite Unit Kilo—Major Imtiaz Ahmed, Captain Shamsheer Suleiman and Lieutenant Rafiq Mehmood—are chosen for a one-of-a-kind ops mission: to enter Pakistan and eliminate dreaded underworld don, Irshad Dilawar. However, somehow, the Inter-Services Intelligence and Dilawar always seem to be one step ahead of them, foiling every plan they make. It doesn’t take long for Major Imtiaz to realize that something is amiss—the operation has been compromised. Will he be able to successfully complete his mission, or are he and his men, like Abhimanyu, entering a trap they cannot make their way out of? Set in the world of covert operations, where double-crossing and diabolical mind games are the norm, The Karachi Deception will keep you hooked till the very end.
Thinner Than Skin – Uzma Aslam Khan
In the wilds of Northern Pakistan, where glaciers are born of mating ice, two young lovers shatter the tenuous peace of a nomadic community
Thinner than Skin is a riveting novel about identity and belonging. It’s also a love story: between a young Pakistani man trying to make his way as a photographer in America, and the daughter of a Pakistani father and German mother brought up in the US, who wants to return to a country she’s never seen. Together they make the trip to Pakistan, where a chance meeting with a young nomad changes their lives, and the lives of those around them, forever. The novel is also a love letter to the wilds of Northern Pakistan, to glaciers, to the old Silk Road, and to the nomadic life of the indigenous people in the Northern territories, where China encroaches and Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Russians, Chinese, and Afghans all come together to trade.
The Blind Man’s Garden – Nadeem Aslam
Jeo and Mikal are foster brothers from a small town in Pakistan. Though they were inseparable as children, their adult lives have diverged: Jeo is a dedicated medical student, married a year; Mikal has been a vagabond since he was fifteen, in love with a woman he can’t have. But when Jeo decides to sneak across the border into Afghanistan—not to fight with the Taliban against the Americans, rather than help care for wounded civilians—Mikal determines to go with him, to protect him.
Yet Jeo’s and Mikal’s good intentions cannot keep them out of harm’s way. As the narrative takes us from the wilds of Afghanistan to the heart of the family left behind—their blind father, haunted by the death of his wife and by the mistakes he may have made in the name of Islam and nationhood; Mikal’s beloved brother and sister-in-law; Jeo’s wife, whose increasing resolve helps keep the household running, and her superstitious mother—we see all of these lives upended by the turmoil of war.
The House of Bilqis: A Novel – Azhar Abidi
A haunting novel about a mother and son and the emotional consequences of leaving home
Bilqis Ara Begum, an aristocratic widow, is dismayed when her only son, Samad, marries Kate, an Australian girl, and settles in Melbourne rather than returning home to Pakistan. Though Samad attempts to persuade his mother to join them in Australia, she insists on remaining in Karachi even while Pakistan is facing turmoil. It’s 1985. The mullahs and the generals are in control, and an insurgency is beginning in Kashmir. Meanwhile, Bilqis’s servant girl, Mumtaz, enters a relationship with Omar, a young man caring for a neighboring house. Omar is an intense man who resents Pakistan’s class system, and his frustration leads him to the freedom movement in Kashmir. But Mumtaz is in love and willing to sacrifice her honor to be with him.
The intertwining stories of Bilqis, Samad, and Mumtaz offer a powerful and nuanced portrait of Pakistan in the modern era-a place of conflicting loyalties, rich with history and culture, and plagued by violence. Abidi’s precise and elegant prose illuminates the struggle between a mother and son to reconcile their love for each other with their love for home.