This is the story of Sister Alice Bhatti a junior nurse and ex-convict who works in Sacred Heart Hospital in Karachi. Alice Bhatti is a bit of a badass and is incredibly well-written. She refuses to submit to the advances of perverse wealthy men, dishes out her own form of revenge or justice against men who wrong her, and even attempts some sort of upward mobility despite being born into the lowest of castes.
While working in the hospital, she falls in love with Teddy Butt – a bodybuilder and a part-time employee of the Gentleman’s Squad, a kind of unofficial dogsbody to an unofficial Secret Police that use illegal methods of maintaining law and order.
Does the love story of Alice and Teddy survive these unfavorable surroundings?
What I love about this book
I love the characterization of Alice Bhatti – she’s awesome, a tough baby who’s really trying her best to overcome the handicaps that she faces. Handicaps? what handicaps?
- Well, she is a woman in a pre-dominantly male-dominated society
- She’s considered an untouchable, a choohra, come from a line of sewer-cleaners
- She is a Christian in Pakistan, a country dominated by Muslims
- And, she has just served time in jail
Phew, that’s a lot to overcome, but overcome she does…at least in the first 3/4ths of the book. I found myself cheering for her when she uses a sharp blade to protect herself against sexual assault, when she has a comeback (even if it is just internal) for every snub she gets. Basically, I loved her. I also liked Teddy and I found the love story between her and Teddy very charming, and I was just rooting for a happy ending for the couple.
What I didn’t like about this book
And here come the spoilers…
She doesn’t get her happy ending. Of course, it’s fairly obvious reading the title of the book. How many saints do we know who live happy, unremarkable, pain-free lives with their spouses?
So, I expected something unexpected. But, what I didn’t like is how really unexpected the ending is. It really felt unconnected to the book. The actions by Teddy and Alice have no build-up in the beginning. I mean Teddy doesn’t show any streak of cruelty throughout the book. He may be a bit dim but he seems nice. I just couldn’t understand his actions in the end.
I don’t mean to say I don’t like the ending. I just don’t feel there was enough build-up for it early enough in the book.
In spite of it, I have to say this book is a little gem. I love Hanif’s writing style, and definitely any future book by him will automatically be on my reading list.