Corner Shop

By ROOPA FAROOKI

The title refers to the shop run by Zaki Khalil in London — a place that embodies both the dreams and disappointments of a man who left his native country in his youth, but now, staring old age squarely in the face, finds himself doing the same things and being the same person he tried to run away from. It is this sense of a missed life that draws Zaki to an illicit affair — with his bored, midlife crisis-battling daughter-in-law Delphine. Set in the heart of multiracial London, a territory made immensely recognizable by such writers as Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi and Zadie Smith, Corner Shop tackles familiar themes of exile and the grip of the past in a new and invigorating fashion. Each of the characters in the Khalil household — Lucky, the football-loving grandson; Jinan, the hardworking lawyer and Zaki’s son who does not know that his trophy French wife hides a terrible secret; and Zaki and Delphine themselves — is etched with remarkable wit and humanity. This is a more nuanced work than Bitter Sweets, Farooki’s debut, which also tackles continent-hopping souls. While the happy ending of Bitter Sweets comes across as hastily contrived, Farooki desists from falling for too much neatness in Corner Shop. Instead, she takes us into the future towards the end, and presents a stark portrait of lives lived under the full force of a merciless destiny. Corner Shop is an important signpost heralding a rapidly advancing talent

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