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The Runaways

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  911 ratings  ·  118 reviews
How far would you run to escape your life?

Anita lives in Karachi's biggest slum. Her mother is a maalish wali, paid to massage the tired bones of rich women. But Anita's life will change forever when she meets her elderly neighbour, a man whose shelves of books promise an escape to a different world.

On the other side of Karachi lives Monty, whose father owns half the city
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 7th 2019 by Viking
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  911 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Fatima Bhutto's main claim to fame is that she belongs to the famous Bhutto political dynasty,of Pakistan. (She is the niece of Benazir Bhutto).

The Bhutto name has helped launch her writing career but belonging to this dynasty has also meant that she has endured plenty of suffering in her personal life,including the murder of her father,Murtaza Bhutto.

She began her writing career through her memoir about her father,Songs of Blood and Sword.Though one sided,it is still much better than her ficti
Ranjit Powar
Nov 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Fatima Bhutto-it’s a famous name, and also a name marked with sanguine sagas in South Asian history. “In a way, violence is always described in stark black and white terms these days and I wanted to think about it in a different way. How much pain do you have to be in to go to war against the world? What does it mean to feel wounded by the world, to be humiliated and isolated? I am haunted by the violence I’ve experienced. You have to expose violence to light, to air, it’s the only way you can r ...more
Katie Lumsden
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a well-written and compelling novel, with fantastic characterisation. It's very hard-hitting and therefore quite difficult to read at times, but is certainly a powerful book.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fatima Bhutto's latest novel, The Runaways, comes with the tagline: 'How far would you run to escape your life?'  The question is a pertinent one given its subject matter.  The novel follows three young adults from vastly different backgrounds who, for various reasons, decide to run away from their homes and join Islamic State.  Despite this bleak plot line, Mohammed Hanif has called the novel 'big-hearted, [and] beautiful', and Elif Shafak believes it to be 'tender, powerful and richly embroide ...more
Salman Tariq
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
When a writer doesn't sit among common people, what is she/he to write about the uncommon observations?

Because of the celebrity status of the writer of this book(due to political background), she has failed to pen down any uncommon observations of common.

She is a method-writer, her novel is well crafted with touches of fine editing and ending; however, the story is weak especially the war seems like a Twitter war. The jihadis depictions are the same as they are shown in Hollywood, so unreal.

Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to finish this book in time for the book tour today. It was unplanned but I do feel quite pleased with myself as I hardly ever review for a tour🙊 If you want to know further details about the plot, check out @keeperofpages as she did a great synopsis yesterday. In essence, this is about three people who go to fight in the war in Syria. Verdict? I bloody LOVED it. As a British Muslim, I felt nervous about reading a book not only by a Muslim author but also with content that I k ...more
Andy Weston
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pakistan
As to be expected with such subject matter, the reading here isn’t often easy, but handled with great skill by the author, making it a very powerful and informative read. By giving her characters economic, social and political difficulties, Bhutto reinforces the point that radicalism has little to do with religion.
16 year old AnitaRose, aspires to a life in Karachi’s most affluent neighborhood despite her origins as a servant’s daughter born and raised in the slums. 17 year old Monty, the son o
Marwa Shafique
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Despite it having a promising start, this was such a disappointing read. I don't know why I inflict so much pain upon myself. It was agonising.
Beth Bonini
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
What kind of person wants to be a jihadi? Who joins the Islamic State? Does membership of such an organisation signal villainy of the most anarchic kind, or is it possible that something far more banal is at work?

“Male, 26, single, quite well-educated but not an expert on the Quran - this is the profile of an average fighter joining ISIS.” (The Independent, 22 April 2016)

When entry documents were leaked from ISIS, (as described in the above article by Lizzie Dearden), they revealed that Western
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was a promising book, interesting premise, but unfortunately it was just disappointing. While reading this I kept thinking about another Pakistani writer's recently published book, "Home Fire" by Kamila Shamsi which covers some of the same themes (muslim immigrant identity in the west, running away to become part of radical fundamentalism) but that one was so very well done, especially compared to this novel. This book did pique my interest and I went through it very quickly. But while readin ...more
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bhutto’s debut second novel (her first was The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, plus a memoir) deals with Islamist radicalization through three characters: Monty, a rich boy from Karachi; Anita Rose, the lowly daughter of a masseuse; and Sunny, a disenfranchised, closeted gay boy from Portsmouth. Of these three, Sunny is the most convincingly and tragically drawn: Bhutto, despite being a child of privilege herself, seems able to fully inhabit and understand the mind of a second-generation teenager l ...more
Prachi Pati
After a spree of reading good books, I came across a book that looked fascinating and whose description intrigued me, but oh my goodness, the book was so bleak. The pace of the story seemed to drag on in the Monty-Sunny sections in the desert and I didn't get the message the author was trying to make. I couldn't relate to any of the characters or care for any of them. I just wish I had read a better book on this subject, rather than this one.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 to 4 stars

Bhutto has created a story that tackles the pressure of familial expectations when it comes to education, career paths, existing in poverty, dealing with classist aggression and apathy, begging, indignity, and how all of these play an integral role in molding the characteristics and expressions of those exposed to them.

Time is taken to build each protagonist's unique yet familiar relationship with their parents and their particular set of factors : how they were socialized, what th
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, edelweissplus
Three different young adults, by three very different paths, become jihadis in Iraq. Fatima Bhutto presents their stories in a nonlinear chronology, letting readers come to see the full picture over time.

I don't know enough about violent fundamentalism to know if this book rings true on that level. I requested a review copy of this title because Fatima's Shadow of the Crescent Moon was one of my absolute favorite reads in 2013. I don't think The Runaways is quite as successful as that novel, but
Jessica Haider
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

The Runaways' narrative switches between the 3 main characters. Anita lives in the slums of Karachi, Pakistan with no hope to get ahead until her neighbor introduces her to his book collection. Monty lives on the other side of Karachi and is very well off and his father has high hopes for him. Things start to shift when he falls for a girl at school. Meanwhile, Sunny was born and raised in Portsmouth, UK but feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere. His father migrated to the UK from India
Emily Cowan
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Utterly profound. Couldn't put it down. Couldn't stop thinking about it.
Aasem Bakhshi
It must be read for how not to disintegrate your well-crafted character sketches till you reach the second half and end up converting all your hard work into a missed opportunity. She didn't have an original story to tell; all she had were three alienated lives which couldn't unfortunately converge in a hazy fourth milieu. I wish she had concieved it as a plotless, character study sort of novel.
Sahil Pradhan
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Runaways rips open the world to show us everything that is dazzlingly beautiful and brutally ugly about it…Bhutto centers the vulnerable and the unseen, making clear that love is the only way for individuals to really meet across the borders of skin or country. Everything is alive in The Runaways, from emotions to people to the country itself. It is this aliveness of every human as well as every animal and thing that makes this novel so remarkable. The Runaways is the ultimate love letter to ...more
Asif Nawaz
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This review originally appeared in Youlin Magazine. (

Despite finding her debut novel disappointing, I picked up Fatima Bhutto’s second novel, “The Runaways” after her session at the Lahore Literature Festival, as I was drawn towards the themes she has discussed in the book. The novel deals with various contemporary subjects such as radicalisation, immigration, identity crisis, power dynamics and class barriers; observed keenly through the eyes of its sens
Sajith Kumar
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Apart from the religious divide that separated the newly born states of India and Pakistan in 1947, a distinct contrast in the running of both countries was seen right from the beginning. Even though Pakistan professed its adoption of democracy, what they had in effect was a form of feudal aristocracy polished for popular consumption and easy digestibility for the liberals. A few super-rich families controlled the destiny of the country, with their strangulating hold on the all-powerful army and ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
A novel about the motivations of three young people who leave their homes to join extremist Islamist forces. Anita lives in the slums of Karachi. She is influenced by the books she reads on the shelves of her elderly neighbour and motivated by the need to redeem her honour after her brother engages her in some weird videos.

Monty, a rich kid in Karachi, is obsessed with Layla, a rebellious girl at his school. After she abandons him, he searches for her and then follows her.

Sunny lives in England
I received a free copy of The Runaways from Netgalley (my first Netgalley book! Yay!) in return for an honest review.

Fatima Bhutto is no stranger to political killing. As a member of the famous Bhutto clan, she's seen several high profile family members killed by their political opponents. For that reason, I felt it a little odd that she's chosen to focus 'The Runaways' not on political killing but on religious conflict. Her book follows a small group of young people from Pakistan and the UK int
Zainub Reads
Aug 27, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The protagonists of this story are three young, lost and directionless people (Sunny, Monty and Anita Rose) who become radicalized and morph into extremists looking for a sense of self worth and external validation.

Validation from the person they love, from a society that degrades them, and from the world in general.

The plot though not very unique is still powerful and intriguing.
However, I found the narrative a bit dull except for occasional flashes of brilliance.

I also felt the characters were
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
The Runaways tells the story of 3 young people who escape their families and become radicalised. It takes place over a few (2-3) years, and it is divided into different periods over those three years, occasionally going back and showing some of the context that explains the "present". It starts with a description of each of the main characters and their relationships with their families, and the narrative moves back and forth from there.

Although it's written in third person, the way the story i
lark benobi
The story was compelling, and the characters are given meaningful challenges. I had difficulty with the language of the novel, however. It frequently felt to me that Bhutto wrote the same thing twice in a row, evidence of a bit of throat-clearing in earlier drafts that still remain here, where a stronger edit would have made for a stronger novel.
Saima Ahsan
Sep 03, 2019 rated it did not like it

This was my first read of Fatima Bhutto. I’ve been her fan since she wrote her first book and I would watch her on some TV program. Her connection to Bhutto dynasty and decision to literally stay away from political scene despite having strong opinions and a well learned personality have been my fascination.
On spotting this beautiful cover of ‘The Runaways” at the library, I didn’t hesitate and picked it up. The synopsis at the back looked promising but I’ve no qualms in announcing my disa ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

I seem to be reading a lot of novels with multiple points of view lately so…here’s another one. The Runaways follows three members of the Pakistani community. Anita Rose, a resident of the Karachi slums, Monty, a jet setting rich kid and Sunny a second generation immigrant living in England. Unlike a number of multiple points of view novels I’ve read recently, the different points of view are di
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
"That's the thing with betrayal- it's always the people you love."
-The Runaways by Fatima Bhutto. @fbhutto
Baat tou sach hai. Jahan wafa hoti hai, bewafayi bhi wahan he hoti hai. Warna ghairo se bewafayi ka kya dar?!
Its a story of three young people, Anita, Monty, and Sunny who feel as if they are caged in their existing lives and strive to escape their dire depressed situations.
Anita Rose lives in Karachi's typical slum area. Unlike her mother who is a 'kaam wali', Anita is not ready to sett
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This has been one of the most thought provoking reads so far this year. The topic of what makes an extremist is one I have pondered in the face of recent tragedies in the news. Not just Islamic extremism, but extremists of any religion or creed. I don’t think there is one answer and, in The Runaways, Fatima Bhutto has shown that that is the case. It is the shades of Shamima Begum whose sad story is still being played out in the media. She was in her early teens when she was enticed and basically ...more
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Fatima Bhutto studied at Columbia University, and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Her work has appeared in The Daily Beast,
New Statesman, and other publications. She was a featured panelist at the 2010
Daily Beast Women in the World Summit, and has been featured on NPRs Morning Edition, CNN, and in the pages of Marie Claire. She currently lives in Karachi.

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“That's the thing with betrayal- it's always the people you love.” 1 likes
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