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Sixteen year old Maria Suleiman wakes up one morning to find her mother missing. Their breakfasts are laid out on the dining table as are their packed school lunches. And there is a note on the fridge that says ‘Leaving you and the kids. Khudahafiz.’
Maria and her younger brother Saud’s life goes topsy turvy. Abba is in a constant rage, they have to eat cornflakes for breakfast, order in dinner every night and the house becomes an untidy mess. Maria struggles with issues at home, and faces trouble at school. K, the basketball captain befriends her, she makes enemies of other popular children and gets into trouble at school. To add to the mess, her aunt wants her father to remarry, and also wants Maria to be married off before the scandal ensures that she is damaged goods of sorts.
Then Maria finds her mother. But is that really a good thing after all?
When She Went Away is a bold book. Can a mother really leave her children, and not be in touch with them? How does an abandoned family come to terms with itself? How do children get over the loss of abandonment and get on with their lives? When does ‘live for one’s self’ ring hollow?
I loved When She Went Away because it does not romanticize the ideal mother, or the father who must take on more responsibility. Andaleeb does not provide justifications for the behaviors of the main characters in the book and most of the adults and their motives are hazy. It makes for good storytelling from a teenager’s perspective and I like the way the author shows, not tells the story!
A definite read!!