Set in the small Pakistani border town of Mir Ali, this novel rotates among the points of view of three brothers, telling stories of past and present violence and building to a fever pitch of terror.
For the very first time, the brothers have decided not to pray together to celebrate Eid because “[i]t is too dangerous, too risky, to place all the family together in one mosque that could easily be hit” by bombs, even though they're unsure whom the assailants might be. The book takes place during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and Pakistan has become a collateral battleground for America’s enemies and allies alike. It is Hayat, the youngest brother, who has decided which mosque each family member will pray at, and it is he who will bear the burden of responsibility if any of those mosques are hit, for Hayat continues the rebel activism of their departed father, Inayat, who, along with his fellow townsmen of Mir Ali, sought independence from Pakistan and its excessive injustices in the 1950s. Aman Erum, the expatriate eldest brother, turned away from this legacy to forge a business in America in exchange for passing valuable intelligence on the rebels to the state. And Sikandar, the middle brother, shunned politics in order to heal others through medicine, only to lose his young son in the political crossfire anyway. But with Aman Erum’s recent return, the truth about what happened to his fiancee, Samarra Afridi, at the hands of the Pakistani state military incites the rebel faction to dramatic action.
Bhutto (Songs of Blood and Sword, 2011, etc.) has crafted a timely, earnest portrait of a family torn apart by the machinations of other people’s war games and desperately trying to survive.