could be read as an actively transformative
project from subaltern perspectives to counter the global designs of the
United States from WWII through to the War on Terror. The prologue
of the novel introduces a prisoner who is stripped naked and, while
waiting to be dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, asks, “
How did it
come to this.
” The first chapter is set in 1945, in Nagasaki, where the
atomic bomb dropped by the United States claims the lives of the father,
and Konrad, the German fiancée, of the female protagonist, Hiroko.
Two years later, to alleviate her sorrow, Hiroko goes to Delhi, India,
where Konrad used to live with his sister, Elizabeth, and her English
husband, James Burton. There, Hiroko meets and marries Elizabeth
and James’s Muslim employee, Sajjad Ashraf. As a result of the
Partition in 1947, Hiroko and Sajjad are forced to move to Karachi,
Pakistan. In the meantime, Elizabeth gets divorced and moves to New
York with her son, Henry. When India performs nuclear tests in 1998
to threaten Pakistan, Hiroko moves to New York to live with Elizabeth
and her granddaughter, Kim. The novel traces the shared histories of
the Ashrafs and the Burtons across three continents. As the narrative
progresses, 9/11 and its consequences challenge the close relationship
between the two families. The murder of Henry in Afghanistan and
Kim’s radical distrust of Muslims cause Raza to be mistakenly
identified and arrested as a terror suspect. The end of the story
suggests that Raza might be the unidentified prisoner from the
prologue, who is waiting to be sent to Guantánamo.
Having incorporated 9/11 into its final section,
has been read by quite a few reviewers as a post-9/11 novel.
when the interviewer Michele Filgate asked Shamsie, “A section of this
novel is set in New York after 9/11. Did you deliberately set out to
write a post[-]9/11 novel?” Shamsie gave a firm answer, “No” (Shamsie,
2008). Instead, as Shamsie (2008) explained in the interview, she
Charlie Lee Potter of
, for example, praises
“decade-spanning and continent-bestriding post-9/11 novel” (2009).