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Reviewed by Darryl Greer for Readers' Favorite
Terrorist bombings are rife in Pakistan and Lahore, that country’s second-most populous city and one of its wealthiest, has its fair share. Another interesting fact is that 90% of Pakistani women suffer from domestic violence and Pakistan is the third most dangerous country in the world for women. Into this background comes author Awais Khan’s debut novel, In The Company Of Strangers, the extraordinary story of Ali and Mona, two of the unlikeliest characters you would expect to cross paths in that teeming city. Ali is a young man, still in his twenties, who once was a successful model. But with his success came all the trappings you would expect in that profession: sex, drugs and alcohol. As he enters the story, he has given all that up but in doing so, he is forced to live in poverty. Across town we find Mona, wife of Bilal, a construction millionaire. She is in her early forties. She has all the trappings of wealth and power: a luxury home with servants, designer clothes, expensive jewellery and flashy cars. But it comes at a cost – she suffers physical and mental abuse from her violent husband. Their marriage, at least from Mona’s point of view, is loveless. When a terrorist’s bomb severely injures Ali’s brother, Hussain, he is forced back into modelling to raise money for his treatment. It is there that his path crosses with Mona’s. And as it does, their lives will never be the same.
If you like thrillers, you’ll love this book; if you like romance novels, you’ll love this book; if you like literature, you’ll love this book. In fact, if you read anything at all, including the newspaper, you’ll love Awais Khan’s In The Company Of Strangers. From the explosive prologue to the poignant dénouement, it is a page-turner and, at the same time, a fascinating and unique glimpse into the complexities of Pakistani society. The prose is flawless, visual, and characterization so effective that you know every facet of the main characters’ psyches and you cannot help wishing that everything will turn out okay for them. I highly recommend this book. It would be a crime if it didn’t become a bestseller.