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Rabia Khan's

Ghosts
Book Review by Safoora Masood
Reading a book is like familiarising yourself with a bunch of characters, you
basically fancy to find your reflection in. Although 'Ghosts' didn't bring
forward any yearning parts of my being, I did make a lot of new friends.
'Ghosts' is the story of two women; Madeline a young and US based
successful art gallery owner, whose life is a rollercoaster ride of confused
emotions and crave for belonging.
On the other side of the world there is Zuleikha, an old Lahori lady whose life
is all about her beautiful house, her small decorated trunk and love for her
absent husband. The novel revolves around the idea of how unknowingly they
cross each others path and become means of each others unfulfilled desires
and wishes.
I've never really been to Lahore or San Francisco, but the novelist, Rabia
Khan, has put an extra effort in her book to reason the beauty of the two cities,
what sets them apart, and how they can still be common in their own
metaphor. The book starts off with Madeline receiving a marriage invitation of
her old friend Tariq. Tariq, with whom she has shared a lot more then just
emotions and trips, starts off as the hub of all her problems but ends in the
book as a saviour. Once in Lahore she lives in the to-be-endowed-mansion
owned by Bilal, an unmarried uncle to Tariq and Humayun, while Zuleikha
watches them all, atop the staircase. Joined with Carl, another old friend from
her college days Madeline sees Lahore in a new limelight compared to her
previous visits, the traditions of marriage, the shrewd tactics of the decorated
Lahore ladies, the spies, the seemingly open-minded yet conservative nature of
the men are just some of the topics Saira, Tariq's aunt, narrates to her. The
traditional details of old ladies, charpois and lahori delicacies are very
intricately sketched out here.
Soon enough Madeline finds a true ally in Saira. On one of the Tea-party visits
to Saira's home, Saira caringly but slyly confronts Madeline with her own
distant love story making Madeline realise her own distressed feelings for
Tariq, her love? her lust? another distant love story? Deciding on not to cause
herself more emotional damage, she goes back to San Francisco.
Still living is distress and unease and facing the worst perplexity of all times,
it's through her physic friend Audrey that she realises that Tariq is not the
reason for her unease. It's the house. The glamorous pale yellow house. It's the

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house that wants something from her. But little did she know that it's Zuleikha
from that house, whose presence she has smelled and known but was unaware
of. Zuleikha on the other side sits with strands of Madeline's hair, narrating
powerful words to bring her back and serve her an end.
Only a week later, Madeline takes a short business trip to London and is
surprised to find Tariq and Humayun also in town. Humayun is Tariq's cousin,
he's a smart, reasonable, well-educated and responsible man with business
flourishing in several parts of the world. The story takes a cunning twist when
Madeline decides to prolong her London trip and reside in separate rooms at
Humayun's country hotel where they join together to explore the beautiful
country side. But soon they realise that they've come out exploring a lot more
then the scenic beauties.
To know what will happen once Madeline leaves London, who will inherit the
house and how will Zulaikha's troubled journey be eased. And more
importantly why is Zulaikha calling out for Madeline and what is it in her past
that bounds her to the house, you will have to get your hands on this book.
The climax of the story is very well narrated, which did leave me in a state of
fascination for the author. Although, Rabia Khan has done a real good job in
accounting this story, the only questionable content of this story is the issue of
lesbianism, which does break the flow of the story a little, especially when one
grasps a certain respect for the old lady. Regardless of this minute endeavour, I
highly recommend this book especially for people like me who have never
seen the city of Lahore and San Francisco. Actually I don't think it's a harm to
add that, it's quite beguiling to realise, that this book is all about US, UK and
Pakistan written by a novelist residing in my home-land, UAE.
Hats off! Your first write is a definite good read.
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