~I received a copy of The Rat-boys of Karalabad by Zulfiquar Rashid for review. Opinions and stories are my own.~
The Rat-boys of Karalabad by Zulifiqar Rashid is a novel that is hard to forget once the last words are read. It is one of those books that haunt you because it is based on secret truths that hide in plain sight.
After learning that his parents are not only alive but living only a few hours away in the city, Omar, the heir to the ancient shrine of Karalabad, decides to meet them, risking his very life as he sneaks from under the watchful eye of Pir Sahib, the holy man with a black, evil heart, who at one time Omar thought was his father. While Omar has some fond memories of his childhood, his life take a drastic turn when he runs into a ‘Rat-boy’ – one of the many mysteries of the shrine. Through this unplanned encounter, Pir Sahib rips the veil of innocence from Omar’s eyes, accelerating his training and vividly showing Omar that to disobey is to court death. After living through heart-wrenching loss, and being forced to commit unspeakable acts of terror and cruelty, when Omar stands face-to-face with his real parents, he knows he must find any means possible to run away from his life of lies. But even when he does the unimaginable with the help of the lovely Zarina, can he really escape the brutal grasp of the three hundred year history of the shrine?
There are moments in Rat-boys of Karalabad that will make you weep; others that will make you feel as though your heart was stolen away just as the children. The Rat-boys in the book are horrifically real. They are children that are kidnapped at as toddlers (or younger) and have their hands and limbs bound since disfigured children are more valuable to the shrines in South East Asia. While Omar is fictional, Zulfiquar Rashid states that “he symbolizes the many young people in the world whose passion for doing good holds an extraordinary power that often goes unrecognized.”
Originally from Pakistan, Zulfiqar Rashid has lived in California for the last 25 years and is a regular contributor to local newspapers on subjects involving Pakistani culture. He’s had several interviews regarding religion as a business and what travelers should do when confronted by beggar children, such as the Rat-boys, so as not to perpetuate the abuse and torture of children. After reading his novel I think I had gone to find anything I could on how to do whatever was in my power to help them. It hits you that hard, especially as a parent.
I see it as a respectful hurt though; one that makes you more aware and opens your eyes. Strangely at one point I actually felt bad for Pir Sahib, even though he seemed so purely evil and by the end of the story I realized why that was. It haunts you, but I sadly can’t tell you more about the story without giving away what makes it so powerful.
For those of you that have strong hearts and care to lift the veil on certain religious ideals, do take the time to read Rat-boys. I think for the sake of the children that have suffered all these years and those who are today, it is worth the sadness that creeps through the intricate writing of Zulfiqar’s story.
You can pick up a copy of Rat-boys of Karalabad on Amazon for $10.79 or $9.99 for Kindle.