In her novel, (From Dunes to Dior, 2012, etc.) Rajakumar pulls back the veil on life in Qatar to reveal a glimpse of Muslim life rarely seen by Westerners.
When newlywed Abdulla loses his wife and unborn child in a car accident, the world seems to crumble beneath his feet. Thrust back into living in the family compound, he goes through the motions—work, eat, sleep, repeat. Blaming himself for their deaths, he decides to never marry again but knows that culturally, this is not an option. Three years later, he’s faced with an arranged marriage to his cousin Hind, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Hard-pressed to find a way out, he consents to a yearlong engagement and tries to find a way to end it. What he doesn’t count on, and is unaware of, is Hind’s own reluctance to marry. Longing for independence, she insists on being allowed to complete a master’s degree in England, a condition Abdulla readily accepts. When she finds an unlikely friend in Indian-American Sangita, she starts down a path that will ultimately place her future in jeopardy. The greatest success of Rajakumar’s novel is the emotional journey the reader takes via her rich characters. One cannot help but feel the pressure of the culturally mandated marriage set before Hind and Abdulla. He’s not a real Muslim man if he remains single, and she will never be allowed freedoms without the bondage of a potentially loveless marriage. It’s an impossible situation dictated by a culture that they still deeply respect. Unfortunately, the novel runs into trouble in its critical moment. When Hind is tempted with a taste of freedom, she is faced with a decision that could potentially ruin her life. The carefully crafted story becomes rushed with awkward and inconsistent behavior from its main characters. Hind’s story completely falls off for several chapters, leaving the novel underdeveloped and lacking the precision of excellent prose.
Readers will forgive some errors in development for a deliciously tangled plot and insight into life on the Persian Gulf.