This novel is set in the slums of Pakistan, in Karachi and Lahore, not long after partition (the separation of Pakistan and India after they won independence from the British Empire). The language is a bit stilted, but translating it from Urdu slang into English is, I'm sure, a difficult task. But once I get over this, the story really grabbed me. Like when you're watching a horror flick and you want to scream at the girl not to go into the shower, since that's where the killer will get her, I kept wanting to shout at the characters in the book not to do the things they are doing, since it seemed they careened from mistake to mistake, and their lives are mostly tragic.
But they're clearly trapped by their poverty in crappy situations which it would take extra-special effort or a slew of good luck to break free from. The book's ending isn't so gloomy as it seems it's going to be, but still the novel's portrayal of common life in Pakistan is bleak. Although times have changed, and even some of the fruit sellers have cell phones to chat on as they drive their donkey carts around, I'm sure that the vast majority of Pakistanis today face much the same kind of desperate choices that the characters in this novel do.