Title: Beneath a Shooting Star
Author: Susan Harrison Rashid
Book Link : http://amzn.to/2lhOakd
Talk about a deep and moving story. What research and detail went into this book was beyond amazing. Reading about the lives of two girls growing up in Pakistan and the differences between their religions was very enlightening and allowed me to experience a different perspective. Great insight into the inner battles between religions within one community.
I received a free copy of this book and voluntarily chose to review.
In 1971, as a civil war rages in Pakistan, two girls are born in the city of Lahore; Nadira to a Sunni family, and Hameeda to a Shia family. At age six, an outspoken, lively Nadira and her beautiful, shy classmate, Hameeda, are drawn to each other, and they become the closest of friends. In the beginning, their religious differences mean very little. But as the years pass and their society fragments, their lives and their relationship are torn apart by a horrific, sectarian tragedy. Separated, they must experience their sorrows, hardships and joys without the support and companionship they once provided each other. Years later when fate brings them back together again, they have to choose whether they will let the past keep them apart, or reclaim their dreams and the friendship they once cherished.
Instead of shopping in the convenient stores of Gulberg’s neighborhood marketplace, her nani preferred the shops in the convoluted streets of Lahore’s old city. Here, she frequented family establishments she had been going to since the early days of her marriage.
The protective walls that once surrounded this part of the city had been destroyed by the British, and only five of the original thirteen massive stone gates remained. Nadira and her nani always entered through one of two gates. Sometimes they passed through the Kashmiri Gate, and just beyond its threshold, were welcomed by a bazaar of the same name. Other times they went through the Roshnai Gate which was located between two architectural marvels. On one side was the Alamgiri Gate, its massive arched opening flanked by fluted bastions, giving access to the trapezoidal citadel of the Lahore Fort. Within the Fort’s walled enclosure, ancient mansions, pavilions, towers and open fields were spread out over fifty acres. On the other side of the gate was the Badshahi Mosque with its red sandstone walls, four soaring minarets and three white marble domes inlaid with arabesque floral patterns. The Roshnai Gate’s proximity to these important sites may have been why it was in close to original condition, its stone walls gleaming as white as bleached bone in the sunshine.
Nadira often imagined ancient, elephant caravans passing through the Gate’s arched opening, the tasseled howdahs straddling the animals’ massive backs, swaying with their heavy footed gait. It was a pretty picture compared to the reality inside the old city. The once grand havelis had been divided up into small apartments for its poor residents. Once beautiful carved and decorated Mughal facades with cantilevered, ornate wooden balconies had been ravaged by time and lack of attention, and only sporadic, surviving surfaces provided a tiny glimpse of their past magnificence.
Trips to the old city were like passing over an invisible border and entering another country where Nadira often felt as awkward as a foreigner. A very different kind of existence from the one she inhabited confronted her as they navigated around the broken pavement of the narrow streets. Large bouquets of refuse were strewn by the roadside and their malodorous perfume permeated even the closed windows of the car. Men and women with the lethargic gait of the undernourished, wearing the dirty, old clothes of the underpaid, crowded the shoulder of the road. Girls, some no more than seven or eight, hefted babies or pulled younger siblings along by their hands, the harried look of an adult already imprinted on their faces. Young boys, their backs bent under heavy loads, moved in and out of the small shops and beggars propped themselves up against the walls of sagging brick buildings. Nadira had seen poverty before, but it had always been at a distance, surrounded by all the familiar places and people of her class, easily dismissed with a turn of her head. Everywhere she looked in the narrow streets, she saw deterioration and the faces of people who spent their days just managing to put one foot in front of the other, and she longed for her old self-absorbed ignorance. Her image of Lahore was tarnished; it was no longer the entertaining, perfect city she’d thought it was.
Susan Harrison Rashid was born in the United States and lived an unremarkable life until she met and fell in love with a young man from Pakistan. They were married in 1980 in Lahore, Pakistan. Annual visits to Lahore and life as a member of a Pakistani family introduced her to a very different culture and country. Always a reader, Ms. Rashid started writing stories when she was ten years old but never imagined she could support herself with her tales. Instead, she practiced law for twenty-four years before retiring to follow her dream and begin her writing career. Beneath a Shooting Star is her first novel.