I have not read, “A Case of Exploding Mangoes”. I was one of those who did not want to read it as well. Something about the plot did not make me want to. So when I received a review copy of “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti” by Mohammed Hanif, I was sceptical to give it a try. It sounded like any other book that was trying too hard to impress the reader. However, I am glad that I gave it a shot and read it.
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti thankfully is not your usual run-of-the-mill book. It is actually different and you believe that as you are taken in further into the book. Alice Bhatti is not just a character that will be read about and forgotten.
Alice Bhatti has just been released from prison. The patients of the Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments are looking for a miracle, and coincidentally or not Alice is looking for a job. A second chance so to say. Alice has inherited the gift of healing from her father, who has recently retired from the post of chief janitor at the local church. Alice with her skills provides relief and comfort to thousands of patients at the hospital and finds herself falling for Teddy Bunt, a lovesick patient who is an apprentice to the “Gentleman Squad” of the Karachi police.
And thus begins the book in the literal sense of the word. Teddy – with a bag of violence and Alice – with a sack of hope could be the unlikeliest two to have fallen in love and yet they do. The story then unravels the consequences they have to face from different quarters for falling in love and getting married at that.
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti was a different read for me – it was filled with humour in some parts and in the others, I could clearly identify the fine lines in most. The setting of the book is not unusual at all – of course one would expect it to be set in Karachi. What is surprising is the description – Mohammed Hanif sure does know how to breathe life and bring the setting to front in the book. The writing is lucid and does not make you grab a dictionary – the words used are fairly simple and what is most important is the characterization, which has been done brilliantly. Readers will instantly fall in love with Alice and empathize with Teddy – to me that is the real power of writing – to make you fall in love with someone who is nothing but a figment of the author’s imagination.
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti will take you through a rollercoaster of emotions – laughter, love, envy, hate pride and immense joy as well. The book will take you by surprise and also shock you in unexpected places. Just for this book, I will now, in all probability also read A Case of Exploding Mangoes.