Sulaman, Jakie, Mae and Lana grew up in Pakistan under the shadow of their controlling and somewhat abusive mother. The two brothers are sent abroad to become doctors, one to England and one to America, but the two sisters are left behind and expected to make good marriages, to bring honour to the family. But being a 'good child' is harder than it seems and in one way or another, all four children fail to meet their mother's exacting standards. Sulaman becomes a renounced academic and expert on torture, but marries an unsuitable Hindu girl he meets in America. Jakie does become a respected doctor, but starts a relationship with a white man in London. Mae and Lana both marry suitable men, but their marriages suffer as they refuse to compromise their lives for the men they are married to. When all four grown up children are called back to Lahore for a family emergency, they have to come to terms with their past, and the role their mother has played in their lives.
The Good Children is the first book I've read by Farooki, and I will definitely be reading more as soon as possible. Prior to starting this, I was in a bit of a reading funk as I just wasn't reading anything amazing, but The Good Children restored my reading mojo almost instantly as it's simply a very good book. It may be 600+ pages, but I raced through it in under three days. The stories of all four children were distinct and engaging, and splitting up the narrative with their different points of view maintained the pace of the novel. Farooki touches on a lot of important themes, such as mixed race relationships, domestic abuse, homosexuality and adoption, but The Good Children never feels like an 'issues' book, it always feels like a good story that happens to involve all of those things.
Although I enjoyed reading about all four children, I was most drawn to the stories of Jakie and Mae. Jakie starts a relationship with Frank during a time in London when homosexuality was still a crime, and Farooki explores the prejudice he faced, and the reactions of those around him. Mae was interesting as she was the child most like her mother, and her struggle to succeed for herself without crushing others was well done. Mae also leaves her husband when he takes a mistress, something that is frowned upon at the time, and I liked reading about her determination to ignore what others thought and forge her own path.
I'm really glad I read The Good Children, as it has introduced me to Farooki as an author. I'm thinking of trying Bitter Sweets next, unless anyone has any other recommendations?
Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review
UK Publication Date: 19th June 2014
Score: 4.5 out of 5