Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Review: The House of Djinn

by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, to be released spring of 2008. (advance review copy) This is the third book in the stories of the life of Shabanu, a young woman living with her family in the desert of Pakistan. In the first book Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind Shabanu has come of age and had to chose between following her heart or agreeing to her father's matching her in a political/economic alliance in an arranged marriage. In the second book Havali, "Shabanu, now a mother at 18, faces daily challenges to her position in her husband's household, even as she plans for her young daughter's education and uncertain future. Then, during a visit to the haveli, their home in the city of Lahore, Shabanu falls in love with Omar, in spite of traditions that forbid their union."

In The House of Djinn Shabanu is living in hiding in the family haveli. Her daughter Mumtaz is a fifteen and just beginning to understand the complexity of her family and the life ahead of her. She lives in the household of her uncle and her father's nephew, whom she calls "Baba" and "Uncle Omar". Her father's other wives and her half-sister are cruel to her, treating her like a servant behind her grandfather's back. Mumtaz (nicknamed "Muti") thinks of this relationship as "death by a thousand pinpricks".
Mumtaz thinks her mother died when she was a young child. Shabanu faked her death and went deep into hiding in order to protect her daughter's life when her husband died. The poignant love and longing of mother and daughter weaves through the story like sad music.

Muti's best friend is her cousin Jameel, six months older than she, who lives half of the year with his parents in San Francisco. Mumtaz and Jameel are growing up in the crush of old and new cultures; the influence of the West and the traditions of their affluent, powerfully
tribal Pakistani families. They love to play tennis and skateboard. They and their friends care about music, shopping, modern western fashions, and developing crushes. The obligations of their families weigh on them and they know eventually the older family members will expect them to take on the responsibilities of the next generation of power and influence.

When Baba begins to show signs of age and illness Muti's anxiety grows. When he passes what will happen to her? Will the family send her back to her mother's family in the dessert? or worse, arrange her marriage to a family acquaintance?

Jameel wants to go to Standford University. Will he be asked to return to Pakistan and take his role in the family leadership before he can seek his own dreams? What about his friendship with the lovely blond girl he has a crush on in California?

The writing is fragrant and smooth. Descriptions of their homes and their activities lead into action and dialog that perfectly expresses the feelings of the characters. I can feel the dry heat of the desert and breath the scented air of the gardens right along with the tensions of the teenagers.

"When Muti was helping to serve tea, Jameel caught her eye and gave her the signal they'd always used for emergency meetings; five fingers spread on the tabletop,he head beckoning slightly with a tilt over the shoulder. it meant five minutes, out in the garden.
Muti waited until Leyla was occupied with giving more orders to the bearers, and slipped out the French doors that led to the swimming pool and the gardens beyond. She followed the path beside the pool, through the rose garden, and down to a small garden with a little pond that held Baba's silver-and-orange koi, with a wooden garden swing beside it, where Jameel sat waiting.
"What took you so long?" It was Jameel's turn to smirk. Muti sighed and sank down beside him on the swing.
"Leyla's always watching to take advantage of me. It'll be almost a relief after you've gone, when she'll simply ignore me again!" Muti said."

Suzanne Fisher Staples worked as a UPI correspondent in Hong Kong,
Afghanistan, India and Pakistan for many years. She has written nine novels for young adults set in the Middle East. I highly recommend them.


Suzanne Fisher Staples web site with book descriptions
Author spotlight at Random for Teachers
list of books at Google books

I'm offering this paperback ARC as my monthly Pay it Forward book giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment by March 14. I'll pick one lucky person and mail you the book. Click on over to Overwhelmed with Joy and see what other books are up for grabs this month. Here's how it is played:

1) Once a month I'll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.
2) All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment on this post. I'll draw names out of a hat on March 14!!
3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway and you have your own blog I ask that you, in turn, host a drawing to give a book away for free to one of your readers. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating a book to your local library or shelter after you're done with it.
4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button below to use on your own blog. Just let Overwhelmed know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!The Pay It Forward Book Exchange is designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!So just leave me a comment if you'd like to be part of this month's drawing. Remember, you have until next March 14!!


Tiffany said...

This sounds interesting! Please sign me up. Thanks!

Cynthia said...

Please enter me!

Overwhelmed! said...

I'm not going to ask to be entered in your drawing because I have a stack of books to read and catch up on, but I have linked you in my March Pay It Forward Book Exchange post.

Thanks for participating by hosting your own giveaway. I do appreciate it! Check on 22 March when I’ll draw and announce the winners of my giveaway!

windycindy said...

Please enter me in your PIF book exchange drawing. It sounds wonderful. Thanks for entering the contest. Cindi

Anonymous said...

Please enter me in your drawing.This sounds like a good book. Crossing my fingers. lol


MotherReader said...

Oh, I wanted to read this book, esp. now after your review. Sign me up for your PIF and if I win I'll send something nice out to someone else. Promise.

Tammy said...

Thanks for the chance, it looks like a good read

Overwhelmed! said...

Did you choose your winner yet? I couldn't find any indication that you did but maybe I'm just not finding it. :)

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I just posted about the winner... It was TIFFANY!!! Congratulations girl!

Anonymous said...

I love your books i wanted to read this book for so long but i can/t find anywhere please include me in the drawing! thanx!!!