Beyond the Cayenne Wall
Collection of Short Stories
by Shaila Abdullah
(iUniverse / 0-595-37009-8 / October 2005 / 114 pages / $10.95)
Beyond the Cayenne Wall happens to be the first book I have reviewed by an author in my own hometown. Although I used to reside literally within a mile or two of Shaila Abdullah, it is obvious that we come from two different worlds. This leads to the best recommendation I can make for the book: the quality of the writing and the intimacy of the subject matter sucked me right into it. Like many traditional Americans, I had a vague notion of the issues presented in Cayenne Wall, but Shaila's fictionalizations of a harsh reality bring these gut-wrenching dilemmas to life. The author takes the reader on a journey through seven short stories back to her original hometown, Karachi, Pakistan.
The only bad news here is old news. This book has far too many proofreading errors to honestly earn a five-star review. I would have hoped that a book that has garnered numerous, glowing reviews of the all too familiar type from the all too familiar sources would have allowed the Proofreading Police a night off. That is sadly not the case, an issue that is additionally disturbing because Beyond the Cayenne Wall has garnered far more than its share of awards and attention from traditional media, at least when compared to that of many other well deserving POD books. Aside from the obvious celebrations of cultural diversity, you would have thought someone would have mentioned the typos. Alas, that seems to be my job alone.
If Beyond the Cayenne Wall had contained four times the page count and one-quarter the error count, I would be screaming its praises from the rooftops! This is one well-written book of POD short stories! The poignancy literally drips from the pages. Ms. Abdullah knows her subject matter. She knows how to do accurate research and she knows how to write. She even designed an excellent cover for her book, and Cayenne Wall includes a glossary, something you don't often see in an iU book. I read the glossary first to smooth out the comprehension of this foreign culture, and I recommend other readers do likewise, although I never felt really lost while reading the text. As you may have already guessed, the references to hot, spicy dishes native to Karachi are numerous, but never overcooked. As a bonus, I received a bookmark for the book, and even that was especially well designed and professionally printed. Welcome to the world of POD, where we have to do all our own tasks, even proofreading. If the mere mention of a book of short stories about a culture from the other side of the world makes you yawn, wake up! Beyond the Cayenne Wall is one of the better books reviewed on this site, and Shaila Abdullah is one of the better writers.
Tabitha's Authors Den Review
Shaila Abdullah's Website