Karachi is volatile, but London is bland

Molly Young in The New York Times:

The true horror of puberty isn’t the emergence of surprising hairs and baneful odors but the abrupt arrival of consequences. Physical ones, obviously — like the sudden possibility of getting pregnant or impregnating someone — but also existential consequences. To enter puberty is to discover not only that the stakes have ratcheted up, but that such a thing as “stakes” exist.

Kamila Shamsie’s novel “Best of Friends” begins at this volatile time — and in a volatile location, too: Karachi, 1988. The best friends are Maryam Khan and Zahra Ali. Maryam is intuitive and romantic; Zahra cerebral and skeptical. Both are 14 years old. Both are privileged but only Maryam is superrich, with private security guarding the family manse and a promise that she will inherit her grandfather’s luxury leather goods business.

Roads are about to fork. Puberty comes to Maryam first. Initially she thinks she has “lost the ability to judge her own dimensions” — like a person hopping into a rental car and immediately severing a side mirror — until she observes that when she accidentally bumps breast-first into strangers, the strangers are always, and suspiciously, men. Zahra experiences her own similar metamorphosis soon after.

More here.