Reeling from personal tragedy, a young couple struggles to navigate political violence in their unnamed homeland and rebuild their marriage.
“It mattered to him that he woke up alone,” Sen's debut novel begins. John is upset and angry to find his wife, Mariam, once again asleep on the floor of the empty nursery that was supposed to house their stillborn baby daughter. Mariam’s ongoing pain is, to John, a personal affront that is splitting their marriage apart. But when the militia storms their workplace and Mariam is kidnapped, John’s only concern is for her safety. This present-day drama then flashes back to the story of young John and Mariam at university—their chance meeting on a bridge, growing connection, and John’s regretted detour into a relationship with Mariam’s friend Nina. Mariam and John soon marry and move back to his hometown. Life for the newlyweds moves along smoothly as John finishes his dissertation and advances in his career—complicated only by the denial of Mariam’s passport in the middle of the growing violence of the military state. Desperate to travel overseas, John decides to purchase forged papers for the family. But the loss of their newborn baby devastates Mariam; John, feeling abandoned, begins to think he and Mariam should separate. Here, the novel's past catches up to the present and jumps back into the story of Mariam's disappearance. This debut novel is a searingly vivid portrayal of the depths of human emotions—from the first glow of young love to the deeper strength of middle-aged commitment. Although the flashback structure—in which the bulk of the novel occurs in the past—leaves the reader hungry for the present-tense storyline of Mariam’s kidnapping, this device does create a suspenseful mystery which haunts the narrative.
A poignant and sophisticated work couched in lyrical, effervescent prose.