I’m Sulaman Saddeq, and I’m in a clean white room, thinking about the decisions we make.
I was very kindly sent a preview copy of this book by Tinder Press, having never read any Farooki before, and was immediately gripped by the novel’s subtitle – ‘Leaving Home is One Thing. Going Back Is Another’. As a returnee to the family home post-university, something about that subtitle resonated with me, though I can’t quite think why…! Faced with a 5 hour train journey to Scotland, I picked up this beautifully covered novel and was immediately transported into the home of the Saddeq family in 1940s Lahore, Pakistan.
The Good Children tells the story for four brothers and sisters, starting with their childhood in Pakistan and ending with their second return home in later life. Taking in turns to tell their story, you follow each child as they escape the clutches of their overbearing mother and start to make their way in the world, only to find that it doesn’t matter how far you run, there will always be invisible strands tying them to the family home.
With an incredible writing style that is able to convincingly transcend time, narrative voice, and geographical space, Farooki’s The Good Children is a sumptuous novel that will satisfy and delight. Her characters are flawed and loveable, strong yet sensitive, and through their own accounts (as well as those of their brothers and sisters) you come to understand how four very close siblings can grow into completely individual adults.
There are a great many cultural issues and prejudices explored in this book from inter-racial relationships to homosexuality, arranged marriage to becoming a single parent and yet Farooki side-steps shoehorning in issues for the sake of it, rather weaving each seamlessly into the story arch. The richness of the characters carries the story effortlessly and I found myself getting completely enveloped in each trial and tribulation.
As a detailed, perspective-written novel, there were times when I needed to flick back to gain my bearings between readings and I was worried for a long time that the only voices we would hear were Sulaman’s and Jakie’s. As much as I liked the brothers, I would have loved to hear more from Mae and Lana, particularly from Mae during the childhood years, but do understand that that would make a relatively long novel even longer – but I just wanted more!
With my second Farooki novel already on order, The Good Children is a pure indulgence of a read – character-led and characterful. Thank you Tinder Press!