cover image Best of Friends

Best of Friends

Kamila Shamsie. Riverhead, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-42182-6

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.)