Noor is the single and rather sheltered daughter of social butterfly Daisy and workaholic provider Kamal. Set in Karachi of the 1990s, the story reflects the unrest and social strife the city was going through. One day, the Kamal home is robbed. Daisy is abducted as getaway collateral, and their faithful old driver Joseph is shot.
In an attempt to get Noor out of this unsafe environment, her parents get her married to Meekaal Kalim, an investment banker, based in Singapore. Meekaal, on his part, seeks a nursemaid for his ailing mother and agrees to marry Noor for that reason.
Noor finds no companionship in her husband and turns to a course in psychotherapy for fulfilment. In the months to come, she befriends Ella, a neighbour, and Jake, an American, who is coming to terms with a vindictive ex.
Getting through this book was laborious and unfulfilling. Timelines are vague and one moment Daisy is a three-year-old, the next she is an adult. The passage of time isn’t noted and neither is the evolution of characters.
Nadya tries to weave the past and the present together, moving between the two unsuccessfully and spasmodically, leaving the reader confused and frustrated. There are too many breadcrumbs leading out of the story, none of which amount to anything.
Ella’s adoption, her obsession with her looks, Jake’s connect with his ex, Aunty Banu’s past, all could have been interesting tales on their own, and yet once introduced, they achieve nothing, go nowhere. Most of all, one is confounded by Meekal and Noor’s relationship. Why is it dealt with in such a sketchy manner? And why is it obstructed?
It doesn’t help that the writing is staccato and stilted, the choice of lexicon is poor, and the sentence construction leaves one wondering if the text was even given a cursory once over by a copy editor.
The mother tongue intrusion is strong in this one. It’s almost as though the writer thought in the vernacular and translated them to English using Google Translate.
There are also lengthy descriptions of clothing that might be better suited to a fashion magazine, and even then, after much editing. The descriptions of food find similar treatment. Often bordering on the ludicrous.
Full points to Nadya for checking off all the boxes on a writer’s must-have—for attempting an epic tale with layers and global movement.
Every character seems to have a deep dark secret, a trauma, an issue that needs resolving. Yet, once tackled, the core lies empty, the characters seem to have no motivation, and the story crumbles like a hollow shell.
So much potential—and then—nothing.