Aslam's timely novel traces the lives of a group of Pakistani immigrants in modern-day London. Set in a part of the city that the group has renamed Dasht-e-Tanhaii, or the Wilderness of Solitude, the novel is centered on a pair of lovers, Jugnu and Chanda, who disregarded the laws of Islam to move in together without being married, and then disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Chanda's brothers are accused of murdering the pair in order to save the honor of their family. Jugnu's brother, Shamas, fights with his wife, Kaukab a strict Muslim over the scandal, which rocks the Pakistani community as a whole. Told from two opposing points of view that of Shamas, who possesses a more liberal attitude toward the outside world, and the unyielding Kaukab the narrative provides an insightful and realistic look at a community struggling to maintain long-held traditions in a changing world. Aslam's portrait of this society within a society is well-developed and richly detailed, and his exploration of the role of Pakistani women is especially striking. As the mystery of the missing couple is unraveled, Aslam skillfully explores the tension between two opposing cultures and sets of beliefs, creating a complex book with elements of suspense and romance that's exceptionally well-crafted and beautifully written.
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