How far would you run to escape your life?
Anita lives in Karachi’s biggest slum. Her mother is a maalish wali, paid to massage the tired bones of rich women. But Anita's life will change forever when she meets her elderly neighbour, a man whose shelves of books promise an escape to a different world.
On the other side of Karachi lives Monty, whose father owns half the city and expects great things of him. But when a beautiful and rebellious girl joins his school, Monty will find his life going in a very different direction.
Sunny’s father left India and went to England to give his son the opportunities he never had. Yet Sunny doesn't fit in anywhere. It's only when his charismatic cousin comes back into his life that he realises his life could hold more possibilities than he ever imagined.
These three lives will cross in the desert, a place where life and death walk hand in hand, and where their closely guarded secrets will force them to make a terrible choice.
The Runaways is only available from Verso Books in the United States.
“As compassionate as it is trenchant, this rare fiction is an illuminating guide through the great disorder of our times.”
“Fatima Bhutto vividly renders the seductions of Islamic radicalization in such a way that we understand both its historical specificity and its universal roots in idealism and desire, rage and romance, youth and rebellion. Drawn from the headlines but plunging much deeper, The Runaways is a novel for our difficult times.”
“An astute and searing take on anomie and radicalization.”
“Stunning ... Bhutto’s descriptions trade between stark beauty and restrained horrors, encompassing the damp of a rain-soaked slum, the wonder of self-caging birds, and the pure brightness of moonshine over the desert ... Her pages are brutal and surprising, and their revelations stand to unmake and rebuild their audiences.”
“Dramatic. ... With poetic writing, Bhutto slowly reveals the characters’ connections as well as some compelling twists, and makes a convincing case that extremism, especially for young people, is driven more by feelings of alienation than religion.”
“Told in alternate chapters from the points of view of all three protagonists, the book moves forward and backward, explaining their motivations in spare, almost jaunty prose that elicits empathy for the troubled teens and stands in stark contrast to the seriousness of the plot. Bhutto’s penetrating character study convinces all the way to the inevitable bloody end.”
“The Runaways is an extraordinary novel by an author whose attention to detail [and] exceptionally effective narrative storytelling style has created the kind of book that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished.”
“A meticulous psychological study of who turns to radicalism and why … A provocative investigation of courage, and how it can foment either salvation or damnation.”
“The Runaways, with its complex fusion of ideas—personal, national, and transnational identity; the relationship between fervor and self-destruction; and the nature of the matrix within which we live—generates a complex fictional topography. The sensibilities of the novel’s protagonists suggest a new dynamic of power relations in which politics and selfhood, empire and psychology prove to be profoundly interrelated.”