Rating: 3 Stars
I’m suitably spooked. The book cover tricrked me into thinking this was a children’s book, if not funny, then surely a bit sad and melancholy. The name of the writer tricked me into thinking that this would be a lighthearted affair, suitable for reading before going to bed. I was so off the mark that I’m convinced I need to read more reviews before I buy a book!
A Firefly in The Dark by Shazaf Fatima Haider is a book that brings to life all the horror stories that we ever listened to, be it the ones told by our grandmothers or the ones by older siblings/ cousins who wanted to watch us squirm, or by that crazy school friend who was not quite right in the head! This is not the horror of Hollywood movies or other English books that you have read. This is the horror of your childhood, when you were afraid to go out of the house in the afternoon because you might meet the woman with turned feet, or you hid in your blanket at night because there was something that was always scratching on your window. So, yeah, after reading this, there go my dreams of giving it to my daughter to read. She will probably make my life miserable by refusing to sleep alone.
Sharmeen is an almost-thirteen year old, who comes to live with her maternal grandmother after her life is turned upside down by a sad accident. She is unhappy with this new life where she feels like an outsider both at home and in school. The one spot of light in her bleak existence is the unbelievable stories that her grandmother tells her. These dark and twisted tales are the bone of contention between Sharmeen’s mother and grandmother, making the house a battleground.
As Sharmeen begins to realize that these stories are not really stories but have a basis in truth, tragedy strikes again and she has to come face to face with these forces of evil. However, she is not alone, as she meets her own personal jinn, Jugnu, so named because of his first appearance as a firefly. It’s a race against time as Jugnu and Sharmeen struggle to fight and destroy this evil before it destroys her whole family.
It was seriously good writing with a bit of humor and lots of darkness, but sadly, it also clashed with my faith and beliefs. It was hard to overcome my prejudices because all the stories and characters were so close to home. When you read mythological stories from other regions and countries, it’s easier to dismiss them as fiction and move on, but when faced with stories from your childhood that might have some basis in truth, the mind refuses to accept things that challenge personal belief.
So, yes, it has been quite an experience reading this book. I can’t wait for other books by this author because she is definitely one of the few local authors who I think are genuinely gifted writers.