The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Synopsis: “A memoir of Karachi through the eyes of its women… Telling the parallel stories of Amina’s polygamous marriage and Pakistan’s hopes and betrayals, The Upstairs Wife is an intimate exploration of the disjunction between exalted dreams and complicated realities.” (source)

My thoughts: In The Upstairs Wife, I was expecting more about Zakaria’s family than an in-depth account of Pakistan’s birth to its current day Islamic state. Despite the history the narrative came across as truth-based rather than fact-based in most parts. That could’ve been because of the switching between timelines and POVs. At any rate, being completely new to Pakistan, I was intrigued, shocked, appalled. The parts of the story dealing with Zakaria’s Aunt Amina – the intimacy mentioned in the book’s title – demonstrated the devastating, de-humanizing effects of polygamy. I don’t know how those women do it…

Highly recommended for a closer look at Pakistan written by a woman who witnessed (some of the) events firsthand.

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Side note: I watched the 2010 documentary BHUTTO prior to reading this book, which added historical context from a source other than Zakaria.

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Received paperback from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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