I bought this young adult’s book for my teenager daughter but couldn’t resist picking it up myself. For anyone looking to escape to another time and age for a short time; it is a recommended journey, though not an overly happy one.
It is set in Karachi, Pakistan where life for a fourteen-year-old Muslim girl Nazia comes crashing down around her ears in the blink of an afternoon. She is a normal teenager who is bright at school and hangs out with her friends in her spare time, with one eye on the boys playing cricket in the park.
When her father has an accident at work and loses his job, and her older brother disappears into thin air, Nazia’s pending marriage to her cousin from the village is put on hold while she and her mother take up (shamefully) work as maids for the wealthy women on the other side of the city.
Things get worse. Her brother steals her dowry and her father has no intention of going back to work, preferring his new-found freedom and being supported in his drinking and gambling habits by the women in his life. Nazia has to face the ugly truth that is her family and grow up overnight.
This is a short story you could read in one sitting but is by no means light. For my daughter, who is of a similar age and also has family in Pakistan, I hope it highlights the plight that some children must undergo just to have food on their table each night. On the positive side, it also emphasizes what is attainable in life if you are willing to fight for it, no matter what the barriers may be.
Qamar, A. (2008) Beneath My Mother’s Feet (Atheneum, ISBN: 9781442414518, 198 pages.)
My rating: ★★★