Reviewed by Fatema Imani
I had no doubts after reading “Thinner than Skin” that the author, Uzma Aslam Khan, can really write and could give many of her contemporaries a run for their money. Her prose is lyrical and almost reminiscent of “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy. Both have this unusual quality of making their prose sound poignant and effortless simultaneously. [I have always been envious of writers who can do that.]
The book follows the story of Nadir, born and bred in America, albeit of Pakistani origin, and Farhana, a half-Pakistani-American woman, as they make their way to the Northern areas of Pakistan accompanied by two comrades, Irfan and Wes and how their lives are changed after a tragic event occurs concerning the locals of the area. Political and religious violence reigns supreme in the background [not really a shocker where Pakistan is concerned], and as the novel progresses, becomes almost interlaced in the story.
The book rides high on the intriguing, local ritual, mating of glaciers, which Khan abundantly writes about. For a person who has never heard of this custom, it is definitely fascinating to read about it!
Khan capitalizes more on the language as opposed to the story. Her descriptions of Northern Pakistan and its inhabitants are beautifully rendered. I definitely feel that the story could have been stronger and the climax rather than thrilled, disappointed.
In all fairness though, Khan’s work is definitely novel; her setting unusual; her characters unconventional; and her language elegant and intense.