From the author of the acclaimed A Case of Exploding Mangoes (“An insanely brilliant, satirical first novel . . . Belongs in a tradition that includes Catch-22”—The Washington Post), a subversively, often shockingly funny new novel set in steaming Karachi, about second chances, thwarted ambitions and love in the most unlikely places.
The patients of the Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments need a miracle. Alice Bhatti may be just what they’re looking for. She’s the new junior nurse, but that’s the only ordinary thing about her. She’s just been released from the Borstal Jail for Women and Children. But more to the point, she’s the daughter of a part-time healer in the French Colony, Karachi’s infamous Christian slum, and it seems she has, unhappily, inherited his part-time gift. With a bit of begrudging but inspired improvisation, Alice begins to bring succor to the patients lining the hospital’s corridors and camped outside its gates. But all is not miraculous. Alice is a Christian in an Islamic world, ensnared in the red tape of hospital bureaucracy, trapped by the caste system, torn between her duty to her patients, her father and her husband—who is a former bodybuilding champion, now an apprentice to the nefarious “Gentleman’s Squad” of the Karachi police, and about to drag Alice into a situation so dangerous that perhaps not even a miracle will be able to save them. But, of course, Alice Bhatti is no ordinary young woman . . .
At once a high comedy of errors and a searing illumination of the seemingly unchangeable role of women in Pakistan’s lower-caste society, OurLady of Alice Bhatti is a resounding confirmation of Mohammed Hanif’s gifts of storytelling and of razor-sharp social satire.
About Mohammed Hanif
Mohammed Hanif was born in Okara, Pakistan. He graduated from the Pakistan Air Force Academy as Pilot Officer but subsequently left to pursue a career in journalism. He has written for stage, film and BBC Radio. His first novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, short-listed for The Guardian First Book Award and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel. He was the head of the BBC Urdu Service in London and now works as their special correspondent based in Karachi.
Alice is a young nurse, a Christian, in Muslim Pakistan. Alice is a Choohra, an untouchable. Alice is also a graduate of Borstal Jail for Women and Children. That’s because outspoken Alice made an easy target at the end of her nursing training when blame needed to be affixed for a botched operation. Sentence complete, with the help of sympathetic but ineffectual Dr. Jamus Pereira, Alice has secured a nursing position at Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments near French Colony, Karachi’s Christian slum. Outsider and renegade, openhearted and cynical, Alice is a strikingly memorable character. Willing to help teenaged Noor nurse his cancer-filled mother, Alice is equally willing to defend herself by razor-nicking the male member of the family of a privileged patient. Hanif’s setting is spot on: Karachi as Karachi-Western-misperceived, squalor and discrimination perfectly logical alongside the “Gentlemen’s Squad,” an off-the-books police operation rough-riding through interrogations that produce dead witnesses. Alice is soon courted and married by Teddy Butt, a waxed-hairless, steroid-consuming body-builder and latent misogynist, who “provides valet parking for the angels of death” as the squad’s combination errand boy and clean-up man. Much of the first two-thirds of the novel is focused on the artful setting and the deepening of character development, and then Alice, praying “in the heat of demented devotion,” resuscitates an apparently stillborn boy. Alice is certain there are scientific reasons for the baby springing to life, but rumors of miracles soon fly around the hospital and out among the want-to-be-patients languishing under a courtyard tree called Old Doctor. It is there too that Alice rests to await her destiny. – Kirkus Reviews
Mohammed Hanif On Secrets And Lies In Pakistan
NPR Book Review – May 24, 2012 (Excerpt)
The Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif is living proof that you can sometimes tell the truth more easily with fiction than facts. Hanif is a journalist in one of the world’s more dangerous places to be a journalist: Pakistan. He’s also become one of the country’s most prominent and provocative novelists. His book A Case of Exploding Mangoes told the tale of real-life Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq, who died in a plane crash in 1988. Few believed it was an accident, and Hanif’s novel delved into the conspiracies (and conspiracy theories).
Hanif joins NPR’s Steve Inskeep to discuss the reception of A Case of Exploding Mangoes and his new novel, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, the story of a poor hospital nurse in the city of Karachi. [Read the full article...]
Interpreter of Maladies - ‘Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,’ by Mohammed Hanif
The New York Times Book Review – June 15, 2012 (Excerpt)
We need to talk about Alice. Alice, with her black hair and big mouth. With her beautiful body and poor impulse control. Alice, criminal and savior, the victim and heroine of “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,” a deft, evil little novel of comic genius by Mohammed Hanif, author of the prizewinning “Case of Exploding Mangoes.”
Fresh out of prison and despite formidable odds, Alice Bhatti, a Catholic nurse in present-day Pakistan, has wrangled a job at Karachi’s Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments, a cesspit of gangrene and incompetence. The “delivery room is a gambling den,” the head nurse says. “Everyone comes out a loser.” The maternity ward itself goes by the grim sobriquet “baby slaughterhouse.”
But there’s something about Alice. She possesses unnerving gifts: mysterious healing powers and the ability to predict how you will die. She works miracles, is beloved by the residents of the psychiatric ward, but nothing, not even her supernatural skill set, can stem the tide of the dead women:
“There was not a single day — not a single day — when she didn’t see a woman shot or hacked, strangled or suffocated, poisoned or burnt, hanged or buried alive. Suspicious husband, brother protecting his honor, father protecting his honor, son protecting his honor, jilted lover avenging his honor, feuding farmers settling their water disputes, moneylenders collecting their interest: most of life’s arguments, it seemed, got settled by doing various things to a woman’s body.” [Read the full article...]
Mohammed Hanif’s ‘Our Lady of Alice Bhatti’
The Washington Post Book Review – July 9, 2012 (Excerpt)
After reading “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,” I Googled Mohammed Hanif to see what kind of person would write such a gorgeously wackadoodle book. I found an essay Hanif wrote to explain why he had decided to return to Pakistan with his wife and young son from London, where he had been staying for more than a decade. The essay shows us a rather aristocratic gentleman with a bit of a let-them-eat-cake attitude about the circumstances of everyday life. Pakistan has better schools and better domestic help, and as for the electricity being turned off for 10 hours at a time, you can always buy your own generator; if the food in the fridge goes bad, go out to a restaurant. Hanif is an accomplished young man, a former air force pilot and a working journalist, and “Alice Bhatti” is his second novel, on the heels of “A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” which was longlisted for the Booker Prize .
It’s as though a different person entirely wrote “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti.” The author of this novel is plainly a wild man, and since the radical edge of the Islamic world isn’t shy about threatening people who make fun of its religion, he must be a man of enormous courage. Even though he extolled Pakistan in that personal essay, here he doesn’t just bite the hand that feeds him — he chews it up. [Read the full article...]
UnBound: Battle of the Half-Angels
The Nephillim Chronicles – Book One by Ronnie Massey
Justin and Theo are just normal teenagers with their teenage problems, until the day they meet their biological fathers, Michael and Uriel, two of the few remaining archangels. They learn, they are nephillim, the half human offspring of angels, and they learn they are not the only ones. In the days of old, nephillim walked the earth. Now heaven’s misfits may be all that stands between mankind and the wrath of Lucifer and the Fallen. But how will a handful of teenagers react when they find out, not only are they not human, but they are the most powerful soldiers in heaven’s army? How will they deal with their newly found powers? And will they be able to stop Lucifer?
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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