Monday, July 21, 2008

Review: Beneath My Mother's Feet

Summary: "Our lives will always be in the hands of our mothers, whether we like it or not."

Nazia doesn't mind when her friends tease and call her a good beti, a dutiful daughter. Growing up in a working-class family in Karachi, Pakistan, Nazia knows that obedience is the least she can give to her mother, who has spent years saving and preparing for her dowry. But every daughter must grow up, and for fourteen-year-old Nazia that day arrives suddenly when her father gets into an accident at work, and her family finds themselves without money for rent or food.

Being the beti that she is, Nazia drops out of school to help her mother clean houses, all the while wondering when she managed to lose control of her life that had been full of friends and school. Working as a maid is a shameful obligation that could be detrimental to her future -- after all, no one wants a housekeeper for a daughter-in-law. As Nazia finds herself growing up much too quickly, the lessons of hardship that seem unbearable turn out to be a lot more liberating than she ever imagined. -- Atheneum

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Amjed Qamar, author of BENEATH MY MOTHER'S FEET, asking if I would be interested in reading her new young adult novel. She thought it might be appropriate for our mother-daughter book club. While my daughter and her friends are a few years too young for this book, I thought the book sounded interesting. I was thrilled when Ms. Qamar agreed to send me an ARC to read and review.

I will most definitely be saving this book for my daughter when she is a little older. I loved this book, and I loved Nazia -- the 14 year old girl who is forced to grow up way too early! I realize that this book is geared for twelve year olds and up; however, I think it a great read for grownups too (especially mothers.) BENEATH MY MOTHER'S FEET deals with issues that each and every mother must face -- wanting what you think is best for your child while also giving them the opportunity to make their own choices.

I am just so impressed with Ms. Qamar as a writer. I can't believe this is her first book. BENEATH MY MOTHER'S FEET was so easy to read (I actually couldn't put it down and read it in one afternoon) and so well written. I was captivated by Nazia's story from the first few pages, and I was sad to see her story end. I would love to know what happens to her past the pages of the book. Not only was the story very intriguing, but the descriptions of Pakistan were incredible -- I could picture each and every scene.

I found this book to be a beautiful coming-of-age story! At the beginning of the story, we see Nazia as a 14 year old girl with her life mapped out for her. She attends school with her friends and is expected to marry her cousin in the near future -- she leads a relatively normal, carefree life for a young Pakistani girl. One day her father is in a devastating accident, and her life is totally turned upside down. Her family is broke and hungry, and Nazia is forced to work as a maid to support her family. To make matters worse, the dowry that her mother has been saving for many years is stolen. Her entire future (and especially her arranged marriage) is now at-stake because her uncle finds this work completely unacceptable for his future daughter-in-law.

At times, this story just broke my heart. I hated how quickly Nazia was forced to grow up and lose her youthful innocence. I also felt so much sympathy for Nazia's mother because she had to do anything and everything to take care of her young children. She too was forced into an awful situation as a maid, while also having to accept that her husband and son were of no help (and actually ending up doing more harm than good.) What I did love about this book was what Nazia ultimately learns about herself -- she finds that she is a strong, honorable girl who really does have some choices. She realizes that she has to be true to herself, no matter how difficult that choice proves to be.

You already can tell that I really enjoyed this book; but if my word isn't enough for you, BENEATH MY MOTHER'S FEET is getting rave reviews elsewhere! Barnes and Noble chose the book as a Discover Great New Writers Selection (Fall 2008); and it was also picked as a Junior Library Guild Selection (April - September 2008.) In addition, it is a Book Sense nomination and a Kirkus Starred Review. Publishers Weekly said, "this beautifully written depiction of life in modern Pakistan offers readers a painful and stirring view of a girl with limited choices but great inner strength." It truly is a fascinating story that is also beautifully written.

If you have a mother-daughter book club of 12 year olds and up, I can't recommend BENEATH MY MOTHER'S FEET enough. It has so many wonderful issues to discuss, especially the relationship between a mother and her children. There is already a great reading guide available to jump-start your discussion. In addition, there are some ideas for activities and research which will also enhance your child's reading experience. I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to read this book and discuss it with me!


S. Krishna said...

Wow, this book sounds great. Thank you for introducing me to so many great books!

Anonymous said...

Sounds amazing!:)