2012 Book 162: Our Lady of Alice Bhatti
Written by Mohammed Hanif, Narrated by Nimra Bucha
Reason for Reading: Shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize
After spending over a year in a women’s prison on some jacked up manslaughter charges, Alice Bhatti secures a job as a junior nurse in a Catholic hospital in the predominantly Muslim city of Karachi. There, she fights to salvage some amount of pride as she fends off roaming hands and gun-toting suitors. In the midst of this chaos, she manages to save a few lives. But is she performing miracles? Hanif’s narrative has some truly beautiful moments, but I was left wondering: What’s the point? There wasn’t really a story-line…it was just a series of events. The scenery and characters supported the novel, but they lacked plot. This book was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust book prize, and I understand why – it displays the woes of practicing medicine in a religiously-charged, seedy environment. I certainly have a better appreciation, now, for medical practitioners in neighborhoods like this. I was moved by the characters, but not enthralled by the story.