The River, The Town | Critical Book Review

The River, The Town by Farah Ali ventures into the realm of literary climate fiction, presenting a compelling exploration of familial ties, regional struggles, and the intricate dance between humans and their environment.


A Drought of Love: Relationships in the Barren Landscape

Ali’s narrative centers around Baadal, whose name ironically means “cloud,” a distant dream for the inhabitants of his drought-stricken Pakistani town. As the river, a vital life source, runs dry, it mirrors the strained relationships within Baadal’s own family. The story unfolds as Baadal, his wife Meena, and his mother Raheela navigate a lifetime journey from their rural roots to the elusive allure of the City, attempting to find and redefine love amidst adversity.


City Dreams and Rural Realities

Baadal’s aspirations lead him to the City, a promised land that symbolizes success. Ali masterfully depicts the harsh realities of Baadal’s upbringing, marked by abuse, scarcity, and unfulfilled dreams. The plot unfolds through the evolving dynamics of relationships, taking readers on a tumultuous journey as Baadal and Meena strive to forge a different path for themselves in the City.


Place Beyond Names: Crafting an “Every-City”

Ali’s prose, while occasionally leaning into summary, skillfully avoids specific geographical labels. The deliberate omission of place names allows readers to empathize with the characters rather than distancing themselves based on preconceived notions. Through nuanced descriptions and character perspectives, Ali transforms the setting into an “every-City,” encouraging a more personal and profound connection with the narrative.


Town vs. City: A Familiar Struggle

Ali draws parallels between the Town and the City, resonating with readers familiar with urban-rural divides. The dwindling river serves as a metaphor for struggles that persist, highlighting the inescapable ties between the privileged City dwellers and their rural roots. The novel challenges readers to confront the persistent disparities and shared human experiences.


Scope and Character Depth: A Deceptive Short Read

For a relatively short novel, The River, The Town offers an expansive scope, spanning most of Baadal’s life. The shifting perspectives, alternating between Baadal, Meena, and Raheela, provide a multifaceted view of each character. Ali’s portrayal of unreliable narrators adds depth, unraveling the complexities of human nature and inviting readers to love and empathize with flawed yet authentic characters.


A Debut Resonance: Ali’s Impactful Entry

Farah Ali emerges as a distinctive voice in fiction, boldly navigating global themes while maintaining a deeply personal touch. The River, The Town is a remarkable debut, revealing Ali’s capacity for risk-taking and offering readers a profound reflection on their own existence. In this debut, Ali sets the stage for what promises to be a lasting and prolific literary career.

Publisher, Genre, Print Length, and ISBN

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
Dzanc BooksLiterary Fiction216 pages9781950539888

The River, The Town by Farah Ali ventures into the realm of literary climate fiction, presenting a compelling exploration of familial ties, regional struggles, and the intricate dance between humans and their environment. A Drought of Love: Relationships in the Barren Landscape Ali’s narrative centers around Baadal, whose name ironically means “cloud,” a distant dream…