Soul mates from birth, Karim and Raheen finish one another's sentences, speak in anagrams and lie spine to spine. They are irrevocably bound to one another and to Karachi, Pakistan, a city that is violent, polluted, corrupt, vibrant, brave and ultimately home.
As the years go by they let a barrier of silence build between them until they are brought together during a dry summer of strikes and ethnic violence and their relationship stands posed between strained friendship and fated love.
What I thought:
Let me first tell you a story (true one) about me. A time not so long ago (it doesn't all have to be real, does it?) I fell in love. I remember it like yesterday. The meeting of the eyes, the butterflies in the stomach, the stolen glances, all the innnocence that first love brings with it. And then of course that long awaited kiss that sends shivers up and down my spine to this day (maybe now with maturity also comes a cringeing grimace as well). The years have gone by considerably since that first flutter of the heart and yet its bittersweet memory lingers on. If you have ever felt that way then you will get to revisit that feeling when you read Kartography.
Kamila Shamsie has managed through her superb character Raheen to translate onto pages what it feels like to be overwhelmingly in love or better to the point up to the ears in it. There is almost a sense of denial that a love could be so strong as we see Raheen doing her best to pretend that it is not there or hanging on to disaster just so that it might actually prove her right and that the love she imagined was there was never there at all.
It is a tale of deceit on another level and how parents lie or hide events from their children hoping to protect them only to find that they have messed them up even more. They do it unintentionally and you end up unbelievably willing to exonerate them of blame when you find out how messed up the parents are to begin with.
This is a story also about the scattered people of Pakistan. Those who left before it all went bad and yet kept up with the news to prove that they had not forgotten and those who stayed behind to deal with the horrors of daily life. Both seem lost and out of place in each other's lives. This is a story about the truest love man is capable of but also about what mankind does to each other in the name of certain beliefs. This story will linger with you for a considerable time.
This is a very affecting book and you need to have two things ready before you start reading: A box of tissues and water-proof mascara (I recommend Maybelline). Enjoy!