The Upstairs Wife

I review Rafia Zakaria’s memoir in Ms. Magazine’s Winter 2015 issue: “The Upstairs Wife revises an old conceit—at least as old as Plato—in telling the story of a nation-state: justice (or lack thereof) in the philosopher’s ideal Republic is reflected in the souls of its individual citizens. A nearer example is Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children; its protagonist is born at the precise moment that India gains independence from Britain, and the man’s life mirrors his country’s life in magical ways, his body disintegrating as the body politic cracks. Zakaria almost mimics Rushdie’s device; she describes her father’s birth in Bombay a month before the creation of India and Pakistan. Fifteen years after the nations’ twin genesis, her kin sail from one to the other, and their fates help tell “an intimate history” of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Ultimately, however, it is not the citizen who mirrors state in this family memoir. It is marriage.”