Project Notes: Approaching the halfway point (Day 21 of 45), I still have books half-read and pieces unpolished. But fortunately my enthusiasm for this project has spread and another Anansi reader has offered her thoughts on a few of her favourite books in their catalogue. Sandra has been commenting here for some time now and although she doesn’t have a website or a blog yet, she is working on it. In the meantime, you can read her thoughts here on a couple of December days.
Please welcome Sandra into the bookchat on BIP and engage her in conversation about Hobbs’ work and other good storytelling in the comments below.
This is a very special reading experience. If you plan to read it, try to set aside enough time to read it in one sitting to get the full effect.
This story takes place in northern Pakistan where a boy of fourteen falls in love with a young woman named Saba. The boy’s father tends a pomegranate orchard and this is one of the boy’s favourite places. One day in the fruit market he presents Saba with “the finest pomegranate” he could find. A short time after, at a wedding in the town and at which Saba’s father is the guest of honour, the two young people meet and talk late into the evening. They talk about many things and it gets later and they fall asleep. They are discovered and the boy is brutally beaten and Saba is also beaten. The boy tries to defend her. He was thrown into jail, then moved to another prison and he remained there for fifteen years. He never saw his family again. Upon release from prison he makes his way back to the pomegranate orchard and, as he begins to recover his strength, he writes this account of his life.
The writing is a poetic love letter and sadness is inherent in every word balanced somewhat by the beauty of the setting and the richness of the words. Here are some of those words:
“In the rose dawn I greet the trees. Trace with my eyes their untidy forms. I imagined them for so long, summoning them up in the darkness when they were lost to me, and each morning now it is an acute pleasure to return to them. They are in blossom, their branches arrayed in scarlet and white.”
“I am Saba, you said, and the name seemed like a wonderful gift to me. It seems so still. I have carried it for a long time, the most precious thing I owned. I spoke it rarely, so that it would not become tainted by my surroundings. I kept it buried deep inside, and when I had nothing else to cling to, with a single whisper in the dark I would name you, careful not to be heard and in doing so, something of you would be restored to me, and something of myself would be saved.”
“And then the swallows were awake, hunting insects among the trees. They arrowed past in a glide and then turned with a neat flutter. They dipped overhead, bestowing with their wings a blessing on us.”
“Your father would say that we had no business being together, that we belonged to different worlds. But we come from the same earth, you and I, the same people. We speak the same language, drink from the same water tap. We know the same sun, the same sky. So if even we must be divided from one another, what hope is there for the rest of the world?”
“But I believe that she still remembers this place, that she thinks of it more often than she allows herself to admit. She remembers how beautiful the trees are in the early morning, how swift the birds that dart between them. And she remembers with something close to sadness the boy she once knew there, even though she does not know what became of him, even though she may suppose he is dead.”