East Pakistan, 1971. A few months after losing her entire family to a violent cyclone that lashed the shores of East Pakistan, Sajida, a girl of ‘fiveandsix’, is found wandering drenched and dazed on a pavement by Ali, a young Pakistani soldier. He brings Sajida home to West Pakistsan where Nanijaan, his mother, unquestioningly accepts her as their own. When Sajida, now married to her college sweetheart, Hussein, conceives her third child, Noor, she knows the child will be special.
On Noor’s first birthday, Nanijaan gives her a box of crayons and as the years go by, Noor’s sketches and paintings take her family by storm. Slowly, they begin to take the shape of the memories that haunt her parents and her grandfather–memories that have been locked away in the deepest recesses of the mind because they are either too shameful or too traumatic to be revealed.
As Noor’s drawings bring to light sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the past, Sajida, Hussein and Ali are forced to admit to the betrayals and disillusionments that they thought had been buried with time. Can Noor, with her other-worldly intuition, help her family to heal the wounds?
At once tender and unsettling, NOOR is a novel about the horrors of war, the fragility of human relationships and the astonishing power of love.
Read an excerpt.
“Rich, resonant and lyrical, NOOR is a novel which tackles, unflinchingly, the legacy of war and . . . makes of great suffering a work of beauty. Sorayya Khan has written a powerful and haunting novel, and a wholly original book.” – Claire Messud
“An eerily beautiful and imaginative novel.” – Bapsi Sidhwa
“NOOR is both courageous and remarkable because it breaks a long literary silence and is the first Pakistani English novel to focus on East Pakistan during the war of 1971 . . . . Sorayya Khan’s quiet, subtle writing adds to the poignancy of the novel.” – Muneeza Shamsie, Dawn
“NOOR is a beautiful novel of love, violence, healing and peace. Khan cuts through preconceptions and stereotypes about the Islamic world to give us characters who are breathtakingly alive in the most human and individual of ways- just what we need in this time of global crisis. It should be required reading for every American.”
– Robert Siegel, author of All the Money in the World and All Will be Revealed.
“Khan’s ability to sensitively portray the character of a child with special needs is exceptional. NOOR [is] a rich but mysterious work of fiction with many layers to ponder.”
– Friday Times, Islamabad
“Sorayya Khan’s narrative in Noor has a dark, poignant beauty.” – The Telegraph, Calcutta
“In a series of chilling portraits, NOOR brings the past back with an exactitude that is both fearful and astonishing. Sorayya Khan’s NOOR is a remarkable novel for the simple reason that it breaks the long tacit silence among Pakistanis of all hues to speak of the horrors of what they saw and did in East Pakistan.” – The Hindu
“NOOR is a haunting book… Wars may end, but the searing shrapnel they leave behind, embedded deep within the individual and collective psyche, continues to colour the present. NOOR is such a remarkable novel because it conveys this in the most understated but convincing way.” – New Indian Express, Chennai
“[NOOR] picks up momentum ending in an unputdownable work.” – Hindustan Times, New Delhi
“Khan’s prose is unrelentingly intense as she tells us of the tragedies of cyclone and war beating down on the fragile landscape.” – India Today, New Delhi
“NOOR is the unbearable lightness of being explored . . . It’s a history of wars won and lost and boundaries redrawn and barbed, to the point of a futile no-finality. It’s about life without the “happily ever after,” not because cynicism tears asunder fairy tale endings, but because in perspective, life isn’t tidy, it has a messy unchiaroscuro in-between.” – First City, New Delhi
“Though unflinching in her descriptions of the horrors of the war, she doesn’t give in to the temptation to take sides or offer justification. Her writing is remarkable because it is so subtle and so honest.” – Deccan Herald, Bangalore
“It is hard to believe this is Sorayya Khan’s first novel.” – She Magazine, Karachi