Mohammed Hanif’s 2008 debut, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, employed satire and the distance of a recent historical setting to bravely grapple with issues of military dominance and authoritarianism that continue to afflict Pakistani society.
The novel centers around Alice Bhatti, a beautiful, scrappy 27-year-old whose father is a drain cleaner from French Colony, a poor Christian quarter of Karachi, as she tries to make her way in life by training as a nurse, marrying a bodybuilder and becoming a mother.
Karachi, one of the world’s most violent cities, is a faintly-sketched backdrop for the daily degradations that Alice must face as both a woman and a poor Christian. She’s attacked at nursing college by a group of Muslim girls for being a “kafir” and later jailed for an operational procedure gone wrong that was not her fault. She is sexually assaulted by a rich, gun-toting man from an “old money” family in the VIP room of a hospital, with a casualness which is sickening.
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