By Husna Begum
A gripping fictional story, with many twists keeping the reader continuously engaged and wanting more – an excellent read!
The story revolves around a best-selling writer, Stephen, who works as a journalist for a magazine in New Delhi and informs his publisher of his desire to write another book. The story begins as Stephen finds his way to a small village in North Kashmir to be amongst the heart of nature to overcome his writer’s block and seek inspiration for his latest book.
Upon arriving in this small village, Stephen finds the quaint village simple and peaceful, filled with its natural beauty that captivated his attention. He was acquainted with his guide, Ahmad and his maid servant, Afrooz during his stay in the village. The story slowly unfolds as Stephen gets curious with a large white house situated in the midst of the village. Afrooz hesitantly tells the dark tales that lay behind the house which was once thriving with happiness, and is now overshadowed with its sorrow.
The story revolves around three women – Afrooz, Afshaan and Lily; and how they tell the stories of the village as they were growing up. The writer, Stephen, used to know Lily from his school days, thus sparking his curiosity to learn the tales of the village. Mr Assad, the owner of the large house had once lived with his wife without children. As her health deteriorated, they adopted a son, Hamdani. Hamdani spent most of his time away from the village as he furthered his study in the city. As such, Hamdani grew up ignorant of his village’s culture and practices.
Abdul, a close friend and assistant for Mr Assad had two children, Maria and Baderullah, who get acquainted with Hamdani. A close and intimate friendship develops between Maria and Hamdani. During this time, Baderullah and his friend, Fakir, only had evil intentions in their minds. Unknown to Maria and Hamdani, their fathers agreed to join families once they reached a certain age.
Maria, despite being self-taught, was highly intellectual in her knowledge of the world and this helped to bridge the friendship between her and Hamdani. With her influence, Hamdani slowly grew to appreciate the villagers and their culture. While Maria secretly falls in love with Hamdani, a love triangle ensues as Hamdani falls in love with another student, Sheema. This resulted in Maria tragically staying unmarried for many years due to circumstances beyond her control.
The second half of the book focuses on Hamdani’s life story which is filled with trials and tribulations as he leaves to New York alone after his marriage with Sheema to become a renowned lawyer. The story takes several twists and keeps the reader engaged on the tales of Hamdani’s second life in New York. While Sheema is expecting a child, Hamdani becomes ignorant of her and focuses on his double life in New York. Throughout Sheema’s pregnancy, she is cared for by the mothers of the three main women in this book (Afrooz, Afshaan and Lily), allowing Sheema to get a glimpse into her husband’s past with Maria.
The sick and ailing Mr Assad learns of his son’s misgivings and forgives him, leading his son to return home to redeem himself to be good father and husband. The happy family embrace their child, Sana, and misfortune befalls the family once again.
Life slowly comes back to the house years later. In the meantime, Stephen completes his book after spending one year in the village, and received good news from the village on some of his characters. Stephen leaves after completing his book and returns home to spend time with his family.
About the reviewer:
Husna is a Project Manager working in medical research at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She loves contributing to public health research and working to build international collaborative networks in the area of infectious disease.