Set in the Andaman Islands over the course of oppressive imperial regimes, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a complex, gripping homage to those omitted from the collective memory.
Nomi and Zee are Local Borns—their father a convict condemned by the British to the Andaman Islands, their mother shipped off with him. The islands are an inhospitable place, despite their surreal beauty. In this unreliable world, the children have their friend Aye, the pet hen Priya and the distracted love of their parents to shore them up from one day to the next. Meanwhile, within the walls of the prison, Prisoner 218 D wages a war on her jailers with only her body and her memory.
When war descends upon this overlooked outpost of Empire, the British are forced out and the Japanese move in. Soon the first shot is fired and Zee is forced to flee, leaving Nomi and the other islanders to contend with a new malice. The islands—and the seas surrounding them—become a battlefield, resulting in tragedy for some and a brittle kind of freedom for others, who find themselves increasingly entangled in a mesh of alliances and betrayals.
Ambitiously imagined and hauntingly alive, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali writes into being the interwoven stories of people caught in the vortex of history, powerless yet with powers of their own: of bravery and wonder, empathy and endurance. Uzma Aslam Khan’s extraordinary new novel is an unflinching and lyrical page-turner, an epic telling of a largely forgotten chapter in the history of the subcontinent.
"Deeply researched and beautifully written." —Kirkus Reviews
"Khan engages readers with a confident style and seamless storytelling." —Publishers Weekly
"As affecting as it is intellectually powerful, the novel is a master lesson in the art of historical fiction." —Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger and Run and Hide
"A richly imagined universe...The characters are vividly drawn, and their voices ring true …Khan’s prose slows the reader down to retrace and savour words … If we are to strive for a more just world, we need to hear the stories." —The Hindu
"Part of the beauty of Khan’s writing stems from the fact that she does not need to actively portray racism, she makes virtually all her characters live it … Khan writes with quietly restrained but powerful passion." —The Dawn, Pakistan
"In the novel, the lives of these characters intersect and their destinies get intertwined. Khan is adept at creating worlds that are at once magical and terrifying. She creates a universe out of a footnote of history. Her writing is crystal, vivid." — Indian Express
"Though the stories are based on true life incidents and characters, it is a work of fiction — fiction that will move you immensely. A consummate storyteller, Uzma keeps the readers engrossed till the end. Even as you grapple with the questions: where is humanity in such times and what is the definition of ethics and morals when survival is the moot point — it is one story that you should not miss." —The Tribune
"A penal colony, a nameless woman prisoner, a world war, three children and a hen. From this miscellany is fashioned award-winning Pakistani author Uzma Aslam Khan’s fifth book, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali… A burdened history, an emotionally charged story. Strength on strength. Hopelessness, sorrow but also courage. Above all, resilience. Though rigorously researched, the dry bones of historical facts never show through, so richly are they enfleshed with credible characters, lyrical descriptions of nature and a powerful narrative flow. This fiction is the new truth we need to know." —New Indian Express
"In important ways, even more so than a good history book, it is good fiction that is truly capable of capturing not just what it is factually known to have transpired but also the attendant hopes, dreams, and emotions of a people and an era. Such a work of fiction miraculously lifts the mists of collective forgetfulness. The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali performs that vital and welcome miracle ... The voices of the past have been successfully captured and amplified by this remarkable novel ... (with a) dream-like quality to (the) beautiful prose. (It) is a novel about pain, loss and systematic exploitation but ultimately, it is also about injustice that transcends time and locale. And yet ... it does not obfuscate injustice as a neutral, ahistorical and decontextualized phenomenon. It provides no leeway for the unjust to breathe easy. In Khan's politics, the ingloriousness of empires, the tyranny of the oppressors and suffering of the victims are not abstract ideas. She engages with these ideas through specific stories with a definite history and a particular geography--a history and geography that keep repeating ... At the same time, all that in no way prevents her from also successfully exploring the universality of the phenomena. Therein lies the great success of the novel." —The Herald Pakistan & Scroll.in
"A perfect work of historical fiction is one that is as compelling as it is enlightening. Uzma Aslam Khan’s new novel The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is just that — a perfect balance of history and the imagination." —The Hindu Business Line