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The Story of a Widow [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Musharraf Ali Farooqi
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 12 2008 0307397181 978-0307397188
“One day when she looked at the portrait, she considered how blessed she had been in life. She contemplated her good fortune in finding an upright man like Akbar Ahmad as her life partner and felt grateful for his bounteous legacy, which released her from all financial cares. Akbar Ahmad looked back at her, his face cast in an expression of long suffering. Mona’s eyes welled up with tears.”–from The Story of a Widow

After the death of her husband Akbar Ahmad, Mona finds herself settling ambivalently into a new life. But the calm rhythm of her days–gardening, cooking, time with her neighbours and family in Karachi–is upset by the appearance of Salamat Ali, the new tenant in her friend Mrs. Baig’s house. Vivacious, friendly, and at times almost impertinent, Salamat Ali is both a breath of fresh air and a disconcerting new presence in Mona’s life, and their awkward meetings always seem to end in embarrassment or misunderstanding. When Salamat Ali, encouraged by Mrs. Baig, presents Mona with a marriage proposal, she is forced to consider what kind of future she wishes to make for herself–and what her past with Akbar Ahmad really means.

The possibility of Mona marrying Salamat Ali shocks her grown daughters Tanya and Amber, and scandalizes her extended family, according to whom Mona’s happiness comes second to what people say about widows who remarry. As Mona negotiates the complex web of tradition-bound in-laws and gossiping, interfering relatives, she finds Salamat Ali waking her to the pleasures of life that thirty years with her dour first husband all but smothered. But if Salamat Ali helps her discover something essential, he also exposes her to new risks, and new dangers.

The Story of a Widow is a beautifully observant novel, one that pays careful attention to the delicate movements of the heart in romantic and family life. But it is equally concerned with the mores of a society in which traditional roles both support and constrain men and–particularly–women. Gently humorous and profoundly perceptive, The Story of a Widow is the moving tale of a woman’s discovery of her voice, and herself.

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Review

“Tender, heartwarming and unabashedly sentimental, in Mona, Farooqi has created everyone’s ideal woman: she can make you laugh and cry on the same page. The Story of A Widow is an ultra-realistic miniature in which Farooqi has evoked the tribulations of extended families and mid-life with sparse prose. If Jane Austen had grown up in a Karachi suburb, this is what she would have written.”
— Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes

“I loved The Story of a Widow! It is a novel full of charm and humour, and Farooqi writes about Mona Ahmad and her attempts to negotiate a world full of interfering if well-meaning relatives with a warm understanding of human frailties.”
— Anita Rau Badami, author or Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

“Readers are not so much transported to suburban Karachi as they are transplanted into the heart of an Indian family. And families are . . . well, families, it seems, are the same world over. . . . [The Story of a Widow is a] charming and insightful novel . . . [A] life-affirming work.”
The Edmonton Journal

“It is not a novel of nuance and subtlety but one of instruction and encouragement.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Readers are not so much transported to suburban Karachi as they are transplanted into the heart of an Indian family. And families are … well, families, it seems, are the same the world over…. Charming and insightful.”
The Gazette

About the Author

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author and translator. His critically acclaimed translation of the Indo-Islamic epic, The Adventures of Amir Hamza, was published by the Modern Library in 2007. He has also translated the works of contemporary Urdu poet Afzal Ahmed Syed.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Oct. 21 2008
By Sam TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The Story Of A Widow by Musharraf Ali Farooqi was excellent; so much better than I had expected. I never would have imagined that a fifty-year-old widow's story would be so exciting. I anticipated that the widow's remarriage would be near the conclusion of the story, but it was only the beginning. The novel is realistic, and has both humour and seriousness: the characters' antics are enjoyable and convincing , while the thoughts of the widow are serious and profound.

Akbar Ahmad, 59, had a stroke and left Mona, 50, a widow. Mona enlarged and framed a portrait of Akbar in the living room, not knowing that in the future, the man in the portrait would scrutinize her every action. Mona realizes the truths of her marriage with Akbar that she was denying. With glimpses of her past, her thoughts, her actions, both Mona and the readers learn the influences that changed Mona into who she is now, and the reasons why she acts the way she does.

Beautifully written in the viewpoint of the widow and with a good pace, the novel is delightful to read. The end of each chapter left me in suspense, speculating what could possibly happen next. The ending of the novel was shocking, but great, and felt complete.

Being born in Hyderabad, Pakistan had a great influence on Farooqi's writing. This influence is seen through the characters, in their customs, and their behaviour, even though the novel is set in Karachi, Pakistan. If you are interested in learning a little bit more about some Pakistani people, this book will do just that.

This hardcover edition is gorgeous. If you remove the paper slipcover, the book is light green with gold writing on its spine. The book is light, the size of the text makes it easy to read, and it is manageable to complete the novel in a day or two.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of a Widow May 1 2010
By Judy
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. I thought the characters were very well drawn and the story was engrossing. I even brought it to work to read at lunch time. Although it was set in Pakistan and reflected the values of Mona's society, it also has universal application. I thought the writer must be a woman because his main characer, Mona, was so believably written. The Story of a Widow has it all - sympathetic and believable characters and setting, humour and suspense. It will make a very good movie with the right script and actors. I will recommend The Story of a Woman to my friends.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappoints on all levels March 12 2009
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The main character, Mona, is not drawn nearly as well as all the supporting and minor characters, including her dead first husband, her neighbour, her daughter's mother-in-law... This poses a great problem when we need to understand her motivations in marrying her second husband and standing by him through thin and thinner. I have a feeling that this book was published to ride on the wave of our current love of culturally rich stories. This is not a culturally rich story. It informs very little about life in modern Karachi, about being a Muslim widow of means. When I turned to the back jacket half way through the book and found out the author was male, I felt a bit foolish (and silly that I didn't know that Musharraf is a man's name). This is no Wally Lamb or Arthur Golden.
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