Many years ago, I read Suzanne Fisher Staples young adult novel Shabanu, which chronicled the coming-of-age of a young Pakistani teen who was forced into a marriage she did not want or plan for in order to save her family in a delicate bind. I had really liked the novel, and was excited to hear Staples had continued the story.
Haveli is a sequel set several years later, in which Shabanu is now a young mother and trying to make her way through life as a fourth wife in a complex and thorny family dynamic. Shabanu is trying to maintain her individuality, her daughter’s education, and her safety, all while trying to avoid her husband’s jealous family members. When her husband’s nephew arrives from America, Shabanu’s world is turned upside down, and suddenly, her heart discovers there is more to life than the narrow one she had resigned herself to. And a new danger threatens her and her daughter’s safety.
This was an engrossing read, but also a sad one. Staples paints a fairly bleak picture of womanhood in a patriarchal society, which seems true to the other things I have read before. Now, I don’t know what sort of research that Staples did in order to create an accurate and timely story, so that would be something to investigate. If you like young adult novels about international settings and problems, then you should definitely check this one out. I do highly recommend reading Shabanu first, as this is a fairly direct continuation of the previous novel’s conflicts. And as you can see, I tried to leave this review fairly vague on purpose, because I didn’t want to spoil too much.
Cross-posted to my blog.