- Book: Beneath the Same Heaven
- Location: Dubai, Los Angeles, Pakistan, San Diego
- Author: Anne Marie Ruff
Kathryn Capen is an educated American woman working in Dubai. Rashid Siddique is an educated Pakistani man also working in Dubai. They meet in a nightclub and fall in love. Rashid proposes marriage and takes Kathryn to Lahore to meet his family – they get on famously.
They move to Los Angeles, and have two children – Michael and Andrew. Rashid is, to all intents and purposes, now an American. Then the whole fairy story begins to unravel. Rashid’s father, back in Pakistan, is attending a wedding up in the tribal areas near the Afghan border. He is one of many wiped out by a US drone attack on the wedding – which the US claims was a Taliban gathering. Rashid goes back to Pakistan to visit the grave and to console his mother and brothers. He is bound by honour and tradition to avenge his father’s death.
Back in Los Angeles, he ‘by chance’ meets Ali – allegedly a Palestinian with a similar story of his father being killed – this time by an Israeli attack. He soon discovers that this meeting is no coincidence and that Ali is part of a broader terrorist organisation bent on taking revenge on Americans and all things American. They plot to detonate a suicide car bomb underneath the junction of two Los Angeles freeways. Rashid is torn between his loyalty to his American family and his loyalty to his traditional upbringing and customs. The bombing goes ahead.
Beneath the Same Heaven tells the story in several parts. First the years of Kathryn and Rashid’s happiness in Dubai, Pakistan, and Los Angeles and then – in individual sections for both Kathryn and Rashid – the events and emotions leading up to the bombing. We suffer with Rashid as he determines what his fate will be.
This is a book for our times, describing – in the extreme – some of the factors that can influence inter-cultural relationships. Not, of course, that all such relationships harbour a potential bomber – but all are in danger of bringing inherited ‘baggage’ to bear. Family pressures and split loyalties can be quite overwhelming. The book is very observant, and very sensitively written by Anne Marie.
Anne Marie was born in Minnesota and, after years travelling the world as an author and journalist, she has now returned home. She has a great deal of experience to call on for her writing.
Beneath the Same Heaven is a thought provoking, and yet somehow tender and sensitive, read. It dares to go where many books would not. I recommend it.