Life is both sweet and cruel to strong-willed young Shabanu, whose home is the windswept Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. The second daughter in a family with no sons, she's been allowed freedoms forbidden to most Muslim girls. But when a tragic encounter with a wealthy and powerful landowner ruins the marriage plans of her older sister, Shabanu is called upon to sacrifice everything she's dreamed of. Should she do what is necessary to uphold her family's honor -- or listen to the stirrings of her own heart?
Print copy, 240 pages
Published: 1989 by Laurel-Leaf Books
This book focuses more on the characters and setting than the plot. Just to tell you. It focuses on the workings of her family, her life in the desert with her camels... the plot is vaguely present, but it's not really the focus.
That being said, I still really liked this novel. It is a fascinating setting and some pretty fascinating characters. For one thing, there is her older sister, Phulan. She is a dreamy, almost empty-headed child, and Shabanu several times expresses a wish to shake her into the real world. They have camels to look after and a house to keep. Phulan is about to get married to Hamir, and that is almost all she thinks about.
Of course, marriage is a big thought in Shabanu's mind, too. Though Phulan is thirteen and Shabanu eleven or twelve years old, they are both fast approaching their marriage dates. Actually, Phulan's wedding is a part of this book.
Another couple characters are her parents. Her Mama is a nice woman, obedient to her husband. Dadi is also nice, but he has a bit of a temper. He wouldn't really hurt them, but he gets frustrated with Shabanu's willfullness several times.
The desert is Shabanu's home. She doesn't want to leave to go to her husband's home, but she knows she will eventually. It's very well described in this book - the sands, the lack of water but the brightness of the stars. Nature at its finest and cruelest. It plays a major role in this book.
The problem is that the plot really picks up at the end of the novel, and I don't want to spoil the ending. So I'll just say it's a bit of a weird ending. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't particularly like it either.
Overall, I think the setting and characters made up for the lack of plot, but I know a lot of other people might not think so. I give this a 3.5, which I'll round up to 4. But as I said, the plot is a background element until the end.
(By the way, happy first day of October! :D Such an orange-and-black month. Cold but pretty, much like the precursor to winter that it is.)