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Haveli    by Suzanne Fisher Staples order for
by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 1997 (1993)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the sequel to Shabanu, tale of a young Muslim girl growing up in unusual freedom as a member of a camel herding family in the desert of Cholistan. Though Shabanu rebelled against her fate, she finally (for her family's sake) became the wife of a much older, and very wealthy patriarch, Rahim. As Haveli opens, Shabanu enjoys the company of her beloved little daughter Mumtaz, and does her best to protect her from the attentions of her siblings and stepmothers.

Though Rahim dotes on Shabanu and is fond of their small daughter, he turns a blind eye to the cruelties enacted against them by his other wives, their children and their servants. They see Shabanu as a threat and a 'lowborn gypsy'. Shabanu consoles herself with love for her daughter and the women in her life whose 'strength, wisdom and beauty were folded in and around the chambers of her heart'.

Wanting her daughter to be educated, Shabanu convinces Rahim to allow them to accompany him to Lahore, where they stay in the heart of the old walled city in the family haveli with his widowed sister and take reading lessons together. There they are joined by Shabanu's friend Zabo, in despair over her coming wedding to Rahim's damaged son Ahmed. Zabo is the daughter of Rahim's vicious, scheming brother Nazir, whose evil touched Shabanu's loved ones in the first story, and does so again this time.

In Lahore, Shabanu also meets her husband's nephew Omar, but resists their mutual attraction for her daughter's sake. Events unfold quickly after Zabo's wedding, with frightening adventures that lead our heroine to another very difficult decision. Again she is strong and acts wisely in order to protect those she loves. Shabanu is a wonderful character in a colorful setting and dealing with the kind of compromises (though in extreme circumstances) familiar to real life.

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