What makes a jihadi? The three runaways of Fatima Bhutto’s second novel are all young, educated and determined to flee their old lives for the Iraqi desert. The Runaways opens with Anita slipping into Karachi’s airport very early one morning. As she shows her passport to a ranger, she keeps her dupatta over her face, hoping no one will recognise her.
Anita has been raised a Christian in a Karachi slum. Her mother earns a living massaging the bodies of wealthy women, and the limit of her ambition for her daughter is for her to become a servant in one of their houses. Anita, however, wants to continue her education, which occurs both at school and at the feet of their neighbour, Osama, who introduces her to Urdu poetry and ideas of resistance: Rise like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number.
This review was first published on 3 May 2019 in the Sydney Morning Herald. You can read the full review here.