Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie [in Booklist]
Tania Rodrigues and Kamila Shamsie prove themselves the best of audiobook companions with their fifth memorable pairing. Rodrigues, “with roots in India, Portugal and Britain,” according to her website bio, is an ideally cosmopolitan choice to follow two teens who come of age in 1988 Karachi and become powerful women in 2019 London.
What Zahra and Maryam have had, since forever, is best friend-ship – “what they had with the other[s] … was merely ‘propinquity’ – a relationship based on physical proximity.” Zahra is the studious one, determined to get to Oxbridge or the Ivy League. Maryam is the heiress to the family’s leather business, mentored by her doting grandfather. Rodrigues initially emphasizes the teens’ youth, deftly granting Zahra greater gravitas.
As Pakistan undergoes the Zia/Bhutto succession, Zahra and Maryam become mired in “girlfear”: an experience Maryam will remember as the “absolute worst scariest thing that happened in [her] childhood.” With a page turn, Zahra is now the director of Britain’s oldest civil liberties organization; Maryam is a venture capitalist able to influence the Prime Minister.
Rodrigues effortlessly adapts as decades pass and bonds become unbearably taut. Shamsie interrogates to breaking point; Rodrigues supports and elevates.