The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is set in Mir Ali in northern Pakistan. To help figure out what was going on, I did a little googling and found out that this area is known for jihadist insurgency. but it wasn’t clear to me that this is what the novel is about, exactly, although it certainly is about the complexities of life in an unstable area.
Set in one morning during Eid, the novel is about three brothers. The oldest, Aman Erum, has just returned from studying and starting a business in America. All his life, he has only wanted to leave Mir Ali and become a successful businessman. His tie to Mir Ali has been Samarra, the woman he has loved since they were children. But his price for leaving Mir Ali was a betrayal, even of her.
The youngest brother Hayat was the one who listened to his father’s stories of the past, when the region was free. Here is one source of my confusion, because Hayat has joined the insurgents working for the region’s freedom from Pakistan. It was not until late in the novel that I discovered they wanted to belong to Afghanistan instead, and it was not clear to me whether these insurgents were also jihadists. I think not, because the family is Shia and the jihadists seem to be Sunni. The actual term is never used in the novel. In any case, Hayat is plotting with Samarra an event to take place that day. In fact, Samarra, whose father disappeared years ago on a mission for the separatists, is in charge of their group.
Sikander, the middle brother, is a doctor whose son has recently been killed when a different group, apparently the Taliban, blew up the hospital where the boy was waiting for his father. Sikander’s wife Mina has taken to attending funerals of other children and behaving in a way that is slightly deranged. Sikander is taking Mina home from yet another funeral when he is summoned for a medical emergency so he brings her along. On their way, they are stopped at a Taliban roadblock. Sikander cravenly pretends that Mina is the doctor and he is simply her driver.
I don’t think we get to know any of these people well enough to become very involved in this novel. Further, more complete background on the history of the area, as opposed to allusions that assume we already know about it, would have helped me understand better what the issues are and who is who. It is clear that the residents of the area feel that Pakistan’s leaders have pilfered it and left them with little hope. The novel held a certain amount of drama but could have been more effective.