cover image People Want to Live

People Want to Live

Farah Ali. McSweeney’s, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-952119-29-3

Ali’s debut collection delivers sharp insights into Pakistani culture and lifestyle. The 14 stories revolve around people holding onto hope and faith in efforts to survive their daily battles with isolation and despair. In “Heroes,” a mother of two struggles to reconcile the true memory of her late son with the angelic idea of him conjured by others, as is standard in the aftermath of someone’s death. In “Bulletproof Bus,” a poor man finds his dreams of landing a respectable job crushed in an unexpected twist of fate, keeping him locked in the vicious cycle of poverty. “Beautiful” follows a young girl living in an orphanage who tries her luck with love, only to discover that it comes at a price. Several stories illuminate the stark contrast between past and present. In “Loved Ones,” a mother triumphantly returns to her family from a therapy retreat only to find herself still battling depression and feelings of incompetence, and “Present Tense” finds a man revisiting memories of a difficult childhood during a visit to his home in Karachi after seven years away. With a cast of well-drawn characters, Ali pays careful attention to themes of mental health, loneliness, and poverty. Ali’s dexterous debut strikes hard. Agent: Chad Luibl, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Oct.)