I spent 3 days hungrily devouring pages of The Family Tree, my eyes tracing the words that take up this 500 page novel, lifting me up, holding me by the hand, whispering sweet lullabies, and urging to feel, to grieve, to be one with the story, and to be swayed away with the characters. At the end of the novel, I felt gratified.
The Family Tree traces the life of a British Muslim Family in Bradford right from the beginning in 1993 when Amjad loses his wife Neelam during childbirth, and is left to be the sole caretaker of his son Saahil and new born baby girl, Zahra. Neelam leaves behind a pashmina shawl that has a family tree carved on it with little birds flying in beautiful harmony signifying the members of the Sharif family who are now grieving Neelam’s loss. Amjad throws himself into the whirlwind of ensuring his children get the life they deserve. This little family creates their own little heaven until the night of Saahil’s graduation when their life takes a sinister turn. Soon everything they’ve painstakingly built comes crashing down, like strong waves carrying them away from the shore.
Sairish has woven an intricate story about a family struggling to put together the fragmented pieces of their life, persevering through tragedy & still hoping against hope. It’s commendable how the author has portrayed a coming-of-age character arc for Zahra who grows up to be a smart, sensible and fierce woman. The book takes us through 20 years of major political changes that have changed the discourse on terrorism, identity, culture, race & homelessness as the backdrop while the family grieves on its own. Sairish represented muslims as they are, which makes me feel closer to the characters, as I see glimpses of my stay in Pakistan, the cultural similarities, the familiarity of knowing one belongs in this cosmic world. Growing up my idea about writing was overtaken by the lack of representation and it makes my heart so happy whenever I read about issues that pertain to me, that affect me personally.
I was rooting for Zahra, for Saahil, for Ehsan. I cried with them, and laughed along at their jokes. The Family Tree is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about life and what makes us human.
Author: Sairish Hussain
Publisher: HQ Stories
Your roots can always lead you home…
Amjad cradles his baby daughter in the middle of the night. He has no time to mourn his wife’s death. Saahil and Zahra, his two small children, are relying on him. Amjad vows to love and protect them always.
Years later, Saahil and his best friend, Ehsan, have finished university and are celebrating with friends. But when the night turns dangerous, its devastating effects will ripple through the years to come.
Zahra’s world is alight with politics and activism. But she is now her father’s only source of comfort, and worries she’ll never have time for her own aspirations. Life has taken her small family in different directions – will they ever find their way back to each other?
The Family Tree is the moving story of a British Muslim family full of love, laughter and resilience as well as all the faults, mistakes and stubborn loyalties which make us human