Stealing Nasreen is the debut novel written by Farzana Doctor. It tells the story of three lives influenced by the actions of Nasreen Bastawala, an Indo-Canadian lesbian. Set in Toronto, Nasreen, a psychologist by profession, finds herself the object of interest of the newly immigrant family the Paperwalas. Both Shaffiq, a janitor in Nasreen’s hospital, and Salma, her Gujrati teacher, are drawn to those aspects of Nasreen that remind them of their lives back in Mumbai and their future in Canada. Nasreen acts as a missing link that fuses both cultures together. The Paperwalas’ fascination grows stronger throughout the novel as the deeply interesting plot unfolds and more of their desires and fears are revealed.
Bashir, Nasreen’s father, is also subject to his daughter’s actions as his wish to return to India relies solely on family in Canada. After the death of his wife Bashir’s attitude to life had changed and when we first meet him in the novel he is in the process of another significant evolution.
The novel speaks of personal struggles as each character faces a different conflict that they must overcome; at the same time it warns us of the risks of keeping secrets from those who are close to us. While the blending of culture and ethnicity provides an interesting subplot the contrast between the characters themselves are easily relatable to immigrants and those from such descent. However even those who are not from immigrant backgrounds will still find some meaning to the messages being conveyed.
It’s my understanding that the Doctor has used aspects of her personal life as an influence for this book which has given it an intimate and personal touch. Using her knowledge as a therapist has allowed us, the readers, to enter the minds of the characters although as she narrates the story Doctor remains uninvolved. Doctor has truly captured the essence of her characters and given them a depth that makes them come to life on the page. As we feel for the conflicts each one must face we ourselves find them reflected in our own lives.
Doctor is currently in the process of preparing her second book, Six Meters of Pavement. The release date is due early next year and if her first book is anything to go by I am sure it will be a success. Unfortunately the book is not available in local shops but can be purchased online from Amazon.com. In the meantime while we wait for the new release, I highly recommend Stealing Nasreen as it is a fantastic story and a book that will keep you turning the page.