Anwar told me that it wasn't until he almost died that he realised he needed to find the woman he had once loved. I've thought about that a lot in the last few years, that if Anwar hadn't worked on that building site, he might never have gone looking for Megna, and if only he hadn't done that, I might still be in the dark about my past. I've only ever been a hair away from being utterly alone in the world, Elijah, and it was Anwar who shone a light where once there was only darkness.
On the eve of her departure from Boston to find the bones of the walking whale—the fossil that provides a missing link in our evolution—Zubaida Haque falls in love with Elijah Strong, a man she meets in a darkened concert hall.
The two immediately connect despite their differences: Elijah belongs to a prototypical American family, whereas Zubaida is the adopted daughter of a wealthy family in Dhaka.
But when a twist of fate sends her back to her hometown, the inevitable force of society compels her to take a very different path, and before she knows it she’s married to her childhood best friend and discontentedly settled into a traditional Bangladeshi life.
In a final bid to escape familial constraints, she moves to Chittagong to help make a documentary film about the infamous shipbreaking beaches, where ships are destroyed and their various parts put up for sale.
Here she meets Anwar, a shipbreaker whose story holds a key that unlocks for Zubaida not only the mysteries of her past but the possibilities of a new life—and she will make a choice from which she can never turn back.
Tahmima Anam is an anthropologist and novelist. Her debut novel, A Golden Age, was winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. In 2013, she was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. She is a judge for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize and a Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, she now lives in London. Her most recent novel is The Bones of Grace.
Anam's final installment in her Bengal trilogy (after A Golden Age and The Good Muslim) follows the life of Zubaida Haque, a young, wealthy Bangladeshi woman who falls for Elijah in Boston, shortly before her departure for an archeological dig in Pakistan. But when the dig is abruptly shortened before the archeologists uncover the entire skeleton of "the walking whale," Zubaida returns to her adopted parents in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and agrees to marry her best friend from childhood, Rashid. Her restlessness leads her to help a British filmmaker in Chittagong with a documentary showing the dismantling of a ship, and she is surprised to note that a beautiful, intact piano is still aboard. Zubaida calls Elijah and asks him to visit her, appealing to his love of music to entice him to come see the piano. The time Zubaida spends with Elijah is magical and illuminating for her, and she is forced to make some very difficult personal choices. In having Zubaida come to terms with her origins and her own contentment, Anam captures two very different cultures in an introspective character study that will mesmerize readers from the very first page.