Fatima Bhutto’s novel The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is an attempt to portray life in Pakistan—oscillating between the fundamentalist savagery of the Taliban and the apathy of the state—and how it affects the people who live under its shadow. The novel is set in the imaginary village of Mir Ali in Waziristan, in northern Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan. It attempts to touch on multiple issues that perplex and haunt the tribal locals of a fragmented nation. The novel is set over 3 hours, with ample sprinklings of flashbacks and a disjointed narrative strategy. There are five characters defining the novel—three brothers– Erum Anum, Sikandar and Hayat, Sikandar’s wife Mina, and Samarra.
Stories of violence, bloodshed and fundamentalism in rural Pakistan flood contemporary media. Statistics and numbers of those affected by them have percolated into every discussion on the country. In this novel, Bhutto attempts to humanise those statistics and numbers—give them names and portray a day in their life. While reading this novel, one feels sympathy for the characters and the situations they face. But somehow, the empathy and heartbreak that such a novel should encompass, is missing. While one understands Mina’s hysterical grief on losing her only son to a Taliban shootout, one cannot taste it. A central character, Mina drifts through the pages of the book, haunting multiple funerals of strangers, searching for an answer to her child’s death, lost in grief, anger and hysteria. Her climatic altercation with some members of the Taliban in a forest allows Bhutto to raise important questions—the logic and rationality behind their attacks and ideology