Title: AMAL UNBOUND
Author: Aisha Saeed
# of pages: 240
Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a 6-month-old male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes.
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Plot & Review
The book highlights the importance of education and standing up for what you truly believe in.
Amal, out 12-years-old protagonist, loves school and yearns to learn. When her mother gives birth to a fifth baby girl, she goes into depression. Amal’s father, therefore, asks Amal to stay at home and look after the house and siblings. Amal goes through a lot of emotions – she sympathizes with her mother, feels sorry for herself for not being able to go to school, frustrated and overwhelmed by everything that is happening around her.
She keeps hearing about Khan Sahib, the mean landlord and his evil son Jawad Sahib. the entire village is indebted to them in one form or other and people hate them, although nobody can imagine fighting them.
She desperately seeks some alone time. She walks to the market alone and buys a pomegranate for herself. The fruit is symbolic, she needs something just for herself. She is hit by a car, by none other than Jawad himself who asks her to give her the fruit. She talks back and invites Jawad’s wrath.
As a punishment, she is enslaved and goes through various rounds of humiliation and insults from her new masters as well as other servants.
When she learns about grave crimes of Jawad, she takes a stand and does everything in her capacity so justice is brought to Jawad.
Apart from the need of education for all and the need to stand up for what you believe in, the book also touches upon the still-prevalent obsession for a ‘boy’, the plight of servants in a landlord’s house.
Through Amal’s story, we learn so many valuable lessons of life – lessons we learned and have long forgotten. Short chapters keep the reader from drifting off. It is a gripping story, one that stays with the reader forever.