Leaving home is one thing. Surviving is another.
1940s Lahore, the Punjab. Two brothers and their two younger sisters are brought up to be ‘good children’, who do what they’re told. Beaten and browbeaten by their manipulative mother, to study, honour and obey. Sully, damaged and brilliant, Jakie, irreverent and passionate. Cynical Mae and soft-hearted Lana, outshone and too easily dismissed.
The boys escape their repressive home to study medicine abroad, abandoning their sisters to their mother and marriages. Sully falls in love with an unsuitable Indian girl in the States; Jakie with an unsuitable white man in London. Their sisters in Pakistan refuse to remain trophy wives, and disgrace the family while they strike out to build their own lives.
As they raise their own families, and return to bury the dead, Sully and Jakie, Mae and Lana, face the consequences of their decisions, and learn that leaving home doesn’t mean it will ever leave them.
THE GOOD CHILDREN is a compelling story of discipline and disobedience, punishment and the pursuit of passion, following the children of a game-changing generation and the ties that bind them across cultures, continents and decades. Painful and sweet, tough and surprising, it is a landmark epic of the South Asian immigrant experience.
First of all I would like to thank the lovely people at Headline Publishing, for kindly sending me a copy of The Good Children via Bookbridgr. This book took me a while to get through, not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I wanted to treasure it for as long as I possibly could.
The novel had me hooked from the start and I was immediately transported into a 1940s Lahore, in Pakistan. Coming from an Indian background, I was able to relate to the culture and identity of Pakistan fairly easily, as it is quite similar to that of India’s. The rich details that were put into the descriptions of Lahore completely immerse you into the story regardless of whether or not you have ever been there.
The story revolves around the lives of four siblings: Sulaman, Jakie, Mae and Lana. In the beginning we follow their lives from their childhood and eventually how they branch out of their small house onto bigger and better things. Throughout their lives their mother is a constant presence, whether she’s there in person or in their memories. Even after the children somewhat escape, she continues to hover over them like a dark cloud, always reminding them that no matter where they go, they can never really forget who they are and where they come from.
The brothers, Sulaman and Jakie are passionate, troubled young men that have a jest for life and go to other ends of the world to achieve just that. The sisters, Mae and Lana, simple yet beautiful find a means of escape through their marriages but refuse to bend their ways in accordance to that of their husbands. All four children are brought up to be ‘good’ but in ways that are deemed unacceptable. From scorn to abuse from their mother, the children aren’t given the love needed to nurture a child. As a result all four grow a rebellious streak and it makes the reader question to what extent a parent can go in order to make their child ‘good’.
Pain is the central theme and emotion in this book and it runs throughout the lives of the siblings, from their childhood to adulthood. Each of them feels the pain of their past in their present; they constantly question their decisions and whether or not what happened to them in their past is the catalyst to how they are in the present. The characters are three dimensional and so complex that I was absolutely in awe of them. Their personalities outshine all of the negativity in the story and reading and learning about them as the story evolved was an absolute pleasure.
Roopa Farooki’s writing is incredible. I don’t think I have read prose as beautiful and skilled as hers in a while and it had me completely invested into the story of the children. From start to finish, I couldn’t find a fault with the book and the only slight issue I had was with the narrative perspectives. The story is told from multiple viewpoints. Sulaman and Jakie speak in first person whereas Mae and Lana’s perspective is told in third. I would have really loved to have seen their perspective in first person narration but that doesn’t take away from the overall brilliance of the story.
Farooki picks up on a lot of important themes revolving around homosexulatiy, mixed-race relationships and domestic violence but the manner in which she deals with them is noteworthy. Key aspects are highlighted and make the reader realise that problems do not just arise from home but from society and its expectations as well.
This was my first Roopa Farooki book and I can guarantee that it will definitely not be my last. I cannot recommend this book enough. You will love, cry and root for each and every sibling in this book and hope that they will, eventually, gain the happy ending they deserve. Definitely pick up a copy of The Good Children, you will not regret it.
Overall Rating: 10/10