A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury is the harrowing story of three teenagers living in Jalandhar, India during the Pakistan Revolution of 1947, a turbulant time for Muslims, Sikhs, and the occupying British – who at the time still controlled that region of the world.
Tariq is a Muslim boy who is desperate to quit India and attend university at Oxford – saying nothing of letting his family make the dangerous trek to Pakistan without their only physically-abled son. He is the assistant to a British cartographer in hopes of receiving a recommendation from him to attend the prestigious school.
Anupreet is a Sikh girl who fears the wrath of angry Muslims, but even moreso fears her brother’s anger towards the Muslims after strangers attacked her, leaving her face marred. She wants peace, but doesn’t want to confront what is necessary to acquire that.
Margaret is the daughter of a British cartographer tasked with assisting Lord Louis Mountbatten in carving out a place for the Muslim community – Pakistan – and leaving the rest for the Sikh community. She wants to feed the orphans and aide the sick, but is kept inside by her fearful and prejudiced mother.
These three characters are fictional, as are the specifics of the attacks detailed in the novel – but by no means are the themes made-up. Bradbury conducted extensive research into the culture of India at the time of the divide, even spending a few months living in the country to better understand the customs and familial relationships that made A Moment Comes so authentic. And it is a war story. The novel culminates on the eve of the day the boundary lines are published, so the reality of one of the largest human migrations in world history hadn’t even come close to reaching its peak. I closed the book after the last page and found myself wanting, needing to know more, but I loved that Bradbury ended it where she did. Because from that evening on, no one could have predicted where their lives were heading. The unsureness was palpable, and terrifying.
What I found so engrossing about the novel was that none of the characters were 100% convinced that they and their “side” was the right one. Tariq grappled with being a dutiful son, and making the best future for himself and his future country. Margaret’s father, the fictional Mr. Darnsley, isn’t even sure that he is in fact helping the situation. In contrast, Margaret comes into her own when she is finally called to help, but not in a way she intended.
Although my two-year committment to the Loudoun County Public Library 1Book 1Community committee has ended, I will recommend this book for the honor come next year when the group convenes. It encases the themes of a book worthy of discussion, and meets the mission of the project; to promote “community dialog and understanding“.
I cannot think of a read-alike to this. Truly, I can’t. BUT, the real-life daughter of Lord Mountbatten – the British Lord who led the cartographers in drawing the boundary lines – Pamela Hicks, just recently wrote a book Daughter of Empire: my life as a Mountbatten and I look forward to reading it to compare her story to the fictional Margaret’s.