Ali Sethi's first book, The Wish Maker (Riverhead Hardcover), arrives just in time to fill the vacuum of cultural knowledge on Pakistan that seems to grow only more pronounced as that nation takes center stage in international headlines. The family saga is told from the POV of Zaki, a young Pakistani boy, but really centers on the lives of the women in his household, including his cousin, Samar Api, and his mother and paternal grandmother, who serve as each other's foils in political, cultural, and familial discussions. As readers, we are always looking in from the outside at the complex lives of these women. The narrative chronicles Zaki's and his cousin's upbringing, his departure from Pakistan, and his eventual return for her wedding, spiraling outward to include the stories of uncles, aunts, and other family members. Sethi's novel is a strong voice in the much-needed dialogue about Pakistan.
Mon., June 15, 7 p.m., 2009