Fourteen years ago, famous Pakistani activist Samina Akram disappeared. Two years earlier, her lover, Pakistan's greatest poet, was beaten to death by government thugs. In present-day Karachi, her daughter Aasmaani has just discovered a letter in the couple's private code—a letter that could only have been written recently.
Aasmaani is thirty, single, drifting from job to job. Always left behind whenever Samina followed the Poet into exile, she had assumed that her mother's disappearance was simply another abandonment. Then, while working at Pakistan's first independent TV station, Aasmaani runs into an old friend of Samina's who gives her the first letter, then many more. Where could the letters have come from? And will they lead her to her mother?
Merging the personal with the political, Broken Verses is at once a sharp, thrilling journey through modern-day Pakistan, a carefully coded mystery, and an intimate mother-daughter story that asks how we forgive a mother who leaves.
Turbulent Karachi is the backdrop for this intriguing, shimmeringly intelligent fourth novel by Shamsie (Kartography), which tells the story of progressive, overeducated Aasmaani Inqalab, the utterly likable 31-year-old daughter of fiery feminist icon Samina Akram. Since the age of 17, Aasmaani has been haunted by the brutal murder of her mother's lover known simply as "the Poet" and by her mother's disappearance two years later. As she eloquently puts it, "every prayer of mine for the last fourteen years had been one single word: Mama." Aasmaani takes a job as a quiz show researcher where she falls for the "dazzling" television producer Mir Adnan Akbar, who goes by "Ed." Ed is himself the child of a larger-than-life mother, the retired Pakistani actress Shehnaz Saeed, who happens to be Samina Akram's former confidante. Shehnaz's eagerly anticipated return to acting brings her into contact with Aasmaani. When she receives a cryptic letter, Shehnaz delivers it to Aasmaani knowing that Aasmaani's mother and the Poet developed a secret code to communicate with each other. As more letters arrive courtesy of Ed, Aasmaani convinces herself that the Poet is alive, held captive by a group he calls "the Minions." Although Aasmaani's interiority occasionally overwhelms the otherwise well-paced narrative, her characterization is Shamsie's crowning triumph. Wry, fetching and too clever for her own good, she is a captivating, unexpected heroine.
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