Shaheer Atique is afraid of getting attached to a place because it always ends up in the rearview mirror. His highly talented and ambitious father chases hospital jobs, so Shaheer and his grandfather are always on the move. The trio’s latest stop is Virginia.
When quiet and withdrawn Shaheer attends the first day of eighth grade, he encounters several people who tease him, laughing at his hair, which “must be a wig.” Before long, he realizes he is a doppelgänger for Ashar Malik, a defense man on the hockey team.
Ashar’s dream is to use his position on The Husky Bladers to get noticed and make it to the Arlington Academy Icecaps, who would welcome him on the team. Of course, that means he has to get accepted to the “number one high school in the country” (14), Arlington Academy of Science and Technology. And science isn’t his strong suit.
Neither boy anticipates what turns out to be the truth: they’re twins, separated at birth by two career-driven parents who don’t have the patience for each other but both wanted children.
Because Shaheer wants answers about how his mother could have left him and Ashar wants to get to know his dad, the two boys decide to switch places in Ashar’s impulsively conceived “brother-swap plan.” That approach has mixed results.
Looking for an anchor, Shaheer realizes that people hang on to the things they love because they are special to them as familiar, known, and comfortable. Maybe he could convince Dad to stick around Virginia so that Shaheer can finally experience that feeling of being home, of knowing that some things aren’t meant to be left behind.
Other lessons in Bhai for Now by Maleeha Siddiqui include important observations about divorce—one of the most eloquent I’ve read. Jaward explains the pain he endures to stop the hurt from spreading, telling his son: “Look, Shaheer, when you go through a hard time with someone, you start to see their true colors. Your mom couldn’t have my back, and I couldn’t have hers. We’d tested each other’s patience repeatedly, and I just couldn’t handle any level of interaction with Zareena. Even for your and Ashar’s sakes. When things get that bad, you take what you get and move on with your life. Staying together for your kids is not the best option when it means not being able to be the best version of yourself with the other person” (234).
Ultimately, the two brothers have to learn a lesson about home and caring enough to show up for one another. They also realize that confidence isn’t always about making “big bold decisions or mouthing off to people. Sometimes confidence looks like the quiet strength it took to tell someone how much they meant to you” (266-267).
- Posted by Donna