cover image A Season for Martyrs

A Season for Martyrs

Bina Shah . Delphinium (HarperCollins, dist.), $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-88-328561-6

Shah's (Slum Child) spirited novel is set in modern Pakistan and is steeped in its rich Sindhi heritage and culture. Twenty-five-year old Ali Sikandar works as a TV journalist for the City24 News station in Karachi when Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's charismatic former Prime Minister, makes her triumphant return home from her exile in October 2007. As the eldest son of the Sikandar family, Ali becomes the patriarch after his father, a wealthy Sindhi landowner, abandons his wife and children to marry a second, younger wife. Ali, who is Muslim, has a Hindu girlfriend, Sunita Lalwani, and they have to shield their relationship from their families. Ali also conceals his Sindhi feudal class origins from Sunita due to the public's negative opinion of the Sindhis. Ali chafes under his burdensome responsibilities and secretly makes plans to escape and study business administration abroad in the United States, but has an abrupt change of heart at the last minute, despite his crumbling relationship with Sunita. When President Musharraf shuts down his TV station, the politically indifferent Ali takes a new interest in Bhutto's celebrated reentry, and finding a new purpose, he pours his soul into Bhutto's reformist campaign at considerable personal risk. As it hurtles toward its violent climax, Shah's novel is both fascinating and eye-opening. (Nov.)