Best of friends A novel

Kamila Shamsie, 1973-

Book - 2022

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FICTION/Shamsie Kamila
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New York : Riverhead Books 2022.
Physical Description
310 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Kamila Shamsie, 1973- (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Women's Prize winner Shamsie's (Home Fire, 2017) smart new novel confronts moral predicaments affecting two women's decades-long friendship. As 14-year-olds in Karachi in 1988, Maryam Khan and Zahra Ali love the same pop stars and novels but are generally dissimilar. Maryam is a leather-goods heiress from an influential family with a chauffeur and armed guards, while studious Zahra is from a more modest background. Following a dramatic shift in Pakistan's leadership, Zahra and Maryam attend a party with fellow classmates, and a consequential decision has events spiraling frighteningly out of control. The setting then jumps to London in 2019, where Zahra directs a national civil liberties organization and Maryam is a prominent venture capitalist. Despite pressing responsibilities, they remain close, but tensions and secrets arise when someone from their past reappears. Shamsie is superb at interweaving personal dilemmas and political realities in ways that enhance the depictions of both. Her continually surprising story, in which repercussions have further repercussions, vibrates with contemporary concerns, from social media privacy to immigration. The novel also wisely observes the enigmatic nature of longtime friendships ("all those shared subtexts that no one else could discern") and shows how female power transforms over time. The protagonists will stay in readers' minds long after this piercingly honest novel concludes.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Shamsie follows her Women's Prize--winning Home Fire with a nuanced meditation on a lifelong friendship. In 1988 Karachi, best friends Zahra and Maryam, both 14, come of age in the last days of the Zia dictatorship. Zahra is bookish and middle class, while Maryam is worldlier and wealthier. One night they make an impulsive decision to get into a stranger's car with their classmate Hammad. The girls have differing perspectives on what happened next, and Shamsie hints that there was danger. Then, after Benazir Bhutto is elected Prime Minister, the girls are swept up in the country's wave of elation. The second half is set in 2019 London, where Zahra is head of the Center for Civil Liberties and Maryam is a venture capitalist. Their circumstances may have changed dramatically, but their friendship remains strong until the surprise reappearance of Hammad, who dredges up the fallout from that night in the car 30 years earlier. Though the revelations aren't that surprising, Shamsie is perceptive when it comes to picking apart the nuances of the women's shifting dynamic. It's not the author's best, but it shows her to be a consistently thoughtful writer. Agent: Victoria Hobbs, AM Heath Literary. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Close friends since childhood in Karachi, Zahra and Maryam have successfully bridged differences in their backgrounds and their beliefs, even after one awful night of adolescent excess that changed the directions of their lives. Three decades later, they're well established in London when two shadowy figures emerge from the past to challenge the very basis of their friendship. From the author of the LJ best-booked, Women's Prize-winning Home Fire.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Two young women navigate their friendship in Karachi, then again decades later in London. "Zahra had once looked up from a dictionary to inform Maryam that what the two of them had with each other was friendship, and what they had with the other six girls and twenty-two boys in class was merely 'propinquity.' " Much of Shamsie's latest novel is concerned with this distinction, as Zahra and Maryam grapple with the force that binds them together, something more meaningful and mysterious than physical closeness. In the first half, the two are 14-year-olds living in Karachi in the weeks surrounding the death of dictator Gen. Zia in 1988. Studious Zahra is the daughter of a deeply principled TV cricket-show anchor. Confident, privileged Maryam expects to inherit her ruthless grandfather's leather company. While the dictatorship they live under (and are subsequently freed from) colors their daily experiences, they are before all else two young girls concerned with their changing bodies, their futures, high-stakes exams, and--in particular--their growing awareness of their vulnerability as women. "It's not just fear," Maryam tells Zahra, "it's girlfear." This portion of the novel is sophisticated and poignant and crescendos to a pivotal scene in a car that is suspenseful, chilling, and masterfully executed. The second half fast-forwards to 2019, when the pair are living in London--Zahra Ali the director of the Center for Civil Liberties and Maryam Khan a powerful venture capitalist funding ethically dubious facial-tagging technologies. This portion of the novel is more scattered than the first. The maneuvering required for their powerful roles, while it allows Shamsie to touch on hot-button political issues, often lacks the exquisite nuance of her depiction of long-lasting friendship. A quiet, moving portrait of two lifelong friends. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.