Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, by Mohammed Hanif

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. 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

2012 Book 130: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Reason for Reading: This is the third Booker longlist book for 2012 that I’ve read.

My Review:
When Harold Fry gets a letter from an old friend who’s dying of cancer, he decides in a leap of faith to take a pilgrimage across England to “save” her. Along the way, he meets many interesting characters and learns to listen to their troubles. He also has time to reminisce about his past…some happy memories, but mostly memories of things he should have done better. This is a bitter-sweet story with deep characters and a good message. The type of person who would love this book is sentimental, and loves reminiscent stories about past mistakes and new beginnings. 

Personally, I’m not that sort of person. Bitter-sweet stories tend to make my eyes tear up, and then I get angry at myself for being so infernally hormonal. 🙂 Stories in which people reminisce about past mistakes also are a little depressing to me. I’ve always felt that we should learn from the past, but not waste energy with regrets. Everybody makes mistakes. If we regret them, do something about it. If we can’t do something about it, accept it as a part of our pasts that makes us who we are today. Try not to make the mistake again. But maybe I just feel that way because I don’t have anything worth regretting yet, I don’t know. *shrug* 

This was a cute book, but I don’t see it winning the Booker.