At dawn in the foothills of a mountain range in northern Pakistan, a sickly young man struggles up a valley to an orchard. He is our unnamed narrator, recuperating after fifteen years in prison; each day he revisits his familial home, long since fallen into ruin. He is cared for by Abbas, a retired ‘government poet’ with ‘no more poems to write’, and Abbas’s daughter, Alifa. He has relearned how to write from Alifa; the trek and a brief rest by the orchard in the morning sunshine provide him with the perfect opportunity to record his memories.
He does so by addressing Saba, a local girl with whom he fell in love as a teenager. The one evening they spent together earned him a beating from her father, an important local dignitary, and led to his incarceration: ‘I had been put in prison not to be punished,