cover image In Exile: Rupture, Reunion, and My Grandmother’s Secret Life

In Exile: Rupture, Reunion, and My Grandmother’s Secret Life

Sadiya Ansari. House of Anansi, $18.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4870-1237-3

In this triumphant debut, journalist Ansari investigates a family mystery involving her grandmother. Growing up in a large Pakistani family in Toronto, Ansari had a complex relationship with her paternal grandmother, Tahira, who showed little interest in Ansari despite sharing a bedroom with her for years. The only bedtime story Tahira ever told Ansari involved a couple burdened with seven children, whose hopes for a son were never realized. The tale took on new significance when Ansari learned from an aunt that Tahira once left behind a husband and seven children for a new romance. Ten years after Tahira’s death, Ansari began asking her father and other family members and friends about her grandmother’s past, supplementing her interviews with research about the 1947 partition of India, which Tahira lived through. Ansari learned that, after being widowed in her early 30s, the fiercely religious Tahira pursued a second marriage that eventually fell apart. Ansari paces the account of her investigation like a crime novel, alternating first-person sections with reconstructions of Tahira’s life in India and Pakistan, and drawing powerful parallels between Tahira’s struggles and her own trepidations about marriage and motherhood. The result is insightful, surprising, and beautifully written. (Aug.)