Fatima Bhutto has written a startling novel. From the moment you start reading you know something is about to happen. It is also quite obvious that it is probably a bomb attack directed at a high official visiting the small town Mir Ali. Bhutto describes the three hours leading up to the attack as seen through the eyes of three brothers: Aman Erum, Sikandar and Hayat. They represent the possibilities people are given in this remote area in Pakistan, close to Afghanistan: a choice for progress and the future (Aman), a choice to go along and take those opportunities given (Sikandar) and the choice to fight for the independence of Mir Ali (Hayat). The latter turns out to be less of a choice than Hayat realises: his father leaves him no other option and raises him to fight for his town. Bhutto tells us what you need to know in order to understand what is going on in Mir Ali and in the minds of the three men. It would be a form of spoilers to reveal what they are thinking of in those three hours or what has happened in their lives so far. Suffice it to say that their lives provide Bhutto with the means to describe life in Mir Ali: continuous harassment by the official government, Taliban attacks and fighters for independence attacks. Life is not safe in Mir Ali. Because of the way Bhutto has set up her novel you are drawn into it, I wanted to know what was going to happen. Especially as it seems that Aman appears to have made another choice. It isn’t until the last but one page that Bhutto reveals whether this is in fact the case. At that moment the consequence of being forced into a life also becomes clear: Hayat has decided that there can be too much of fighting and accepts the personal consequences. I am not sure whether I quite accept this rather drastic change. I might have if Bhutto had revealed more of Hayat. It is not until those last pages that he is revealed to have started doubting the cause he has fought for his whole life. It left me to wonder whether the last pages where the point of view of Bhutto herself, who belongs to an influential Pakistan family: progress, the future, is more important than the past.
A definite read.