Summary: In a Dubai nightclub, a blond American journalist named Kathryn meets Rashid Siddique, a darkly handsome Pakistani man. Each is looking to step out of the proscribed boundaries of their lives. As their lives and passions rapidly interweave, they try on each other’s customs to see how well they fit.
After Kathryn experiences fasting during Ramadan and expresses an interest in meeting his family in Pakistan, Rashid proposes to her. Soon she is tossed into a whirlwind of people and wedding customs that are exotically foreign and exciting. Kathryn works hard at feeling what it is like to be Pakistani.
Rashid has ducked his parents’ traditional matchmaking efforts for years. He is fiercely loyal to his Muslim religion, family and clan, but he wants to walk his own path in the world. After a traditional Pakistani wedding, the newlyweds head to America. Rashid gleefully experiences American freedoms, life in California and consumerism.
Rashid’s engineering degree and FBI clearance qualify him for work on an oil rig. Kathryn writes for a local journal. Together they have two sons, Michael and Andrew, five years apart. They are living the American dream until the day that Rashid’s father is killed by an American drone attack while at a wedding on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.
Rashid finds himself caught between his centuries-old religious, cultural, family and clan loyalties and his love for his American family. He is also heavily pressured by outside forces, men who want him to use his skills and connections to get revenge on the Americans for their attack on innocent Pakistani civilians. Rashid’s final, heart-wrenching decision has repercussions that affect both his American and Pakistani families for the rest of their lives.
Comments: Beneath the Same Heaven is a deeply compassionate and very plausible contemporary novel. It is a rare book that makes me cry, but I sobbed apologetically at one point in the story. If I could get a magic fairy to give me three wishes right now, one wish would be that this book be required reading for those with closed minds and hardened hearts; that reading this book could be a step toward understanding and peace. But alas, I stopped believing in magic fairies long ago.
For more background information on this novel, see the interview with the author here on Book Glow.