This is a slight looking book – smaller than the average hardback and only a slim volume – but it certainly packs a punch both emotionally and in terms of the plot.
The story involves three brothers and two women in their lives and most of the action takes place on one Eid morning in the tribal region of Pakistan. Although you are never in doubt about the violence and danger in their lives I was also struck by how much most of the characters love the place they live in. My over-riding feeling was that, while politics and religious differences were one thing, what really matters to most people is their home and family. It is only a few who are so focussed on religion and power struggles that they are willing to sacrifice what is so precious to everyone else.
There is a huge amount of sadness in this book. There is grief for the loss of fathers and sons as well as anger against governments. Although the main characters are the brothers I was particularly moved by the stories of Mina – the wife of the middle brother – and Samarra, a beautiful but tragic girl, who is loved by both the youngest and oldest. And with the three brothers we see a wide range of experiences – one who wants to escape from Mir Ali, one who would fight to the death for his beliefs and one who, like most of us, just wants to live a normal life being of value to his community. What I really liked was the way that we are shown these experiences in such a way that we can sympathise with all of them.
This is a beautifully written book. By the end I felt that I was beginning to develop an understanding of the problems faced by a very troubled region.