The Last Day In Karachi

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Alia Khan-Hudson’s autobiographical novel is, at the outset, a coming-of-age novel; the story of a woman conflicted by her education and liberal upbringing which prompt her to desire a level of companionship and personal expression her familial culture is not ready to give her. The story is simultaneously told through the eyes of the woman grown, looking back, and her younger self. This constant balancing act between innocence and maturity keeps the linear storytelling fresh, while also keeping the trauma that redefined Sabah in the forefront. Since the reader is always forced to look back and move forward simultaneously, the effect of serious emotional and physical trauma is both viscerally realized and kept at arm’s length. This is the driving strength of the novel, in my opinion.

Though I was taken by the character Sabah, I was confused on some points and disturbed by others. The “villain” of the piece is given no motive or character traits – only hints that there is an underlying socio-political issue that may have prompted his actions. Told from his victim’s viewpoint, his actions are necessarily haphazard and random, but this left me feeling rather unsettled and felt at odds with the rest of the novel – a piece that pushes for cultural understanding at every turn. Likewise, Sabah’s eventual love story made me anxious and extremely uncomfortable.

All in all, Through the Ring of Fire was an interesting study into the experience of a woman overcome with the after-effects of a violent and emotionally traumatic experience, while also containing a compelling picture of one Pakistani Muslim family’s interpersonal dynamics.

Recommended for educators, especially those interested in ESL (English as a Second Language) composition and expression. Also highly recommended for anyone interested in a raw account of a woman’s transition from the safety of her Middle Eastern family to the relative unknown of a Western marriage. From a Western bias, there are some uncomfortable moments – especially as the reader becomes attached to Sabah and consequently concerned for her emotional well-being – but this discomfort is necessary and beneficial if one can recognize their bias and accept this woman as she is: Herself.

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Star Count 3/5
Format Trade
Page Count 262 pages
Publisher CreateSpace
Publish Date 28-Jun-2012
ISBN 9781470120474 Buy this Book
Issue October 2012
Category Popular Fiction


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