“The Weight of Our Sky” is a powerful and poignant debut novel that takes the reader on a journey through the tumultuous events of May 13, 1969, in Malaysia. The story is told through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Melati Ahmad, who suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death.
The novel begins with Melati living a relatively normal life, attending school, and spending time with her best friend, Saf. However, her life is turned upside down when the riots break out in Kuala Lumpur on May 13, 1969. Melati becomes separated from Saf and is forced to navigate the dangerous and volatile city alone. As the violence escalates, Melati‘s OCD becomes more severe, and she finds herself trapped in a world of terrifying and obsessive thoughts.
One of the strengths of this novel is its vivid and evocative setting. The descriptions of Kuala Lumpur in the midst of the riots are vivid and immersive, transporting the reader to a time and place that is both unfamiliar and unsettling. Alkaf does an excellent job of capturing the chaos and confusion of the riots, while also weaving in elements of traditional Malay culture and folklore.
Another strength of the novel is the way it explores themes of mental health and trauma. Melati‘s struggles with OCD are portrayed with sensitivity and empathy, and Alkaf does an excellent job of depicting the impact that mental illness can have on a person’s life. Melati‘s OCD becomes increasingly severe as the novel progresses, and the reader can feel her sense of isolation and desperation as she tries to navigate the violence and chaos of the riots.
At its core, “The Weight of Our Sky” is a story about love, loss, and resilience. Melati‘s journey is a difficult one, but it is also one that is filled with moments of hope and compassion. Despite the violence and turmoil that surrounds her, Melati is able to find moments of connection and kindness with others, and these moments of humanity are what ultimately sustain her.
In conclusion, “The Weight of Our Sky” is a powerful and affecting novel that explores themes of mental health, trauma, and resilience in the face of adversity. Alkaf‘s writing is evocative and immersive, and her portrayal of Kuala Lumpur in the midst of the riots is both harrowing and compelling. This is a novel that will stay with readers long after they finish reading it, and it is a testament to the enduring power of hope and compassion in the face of darkness.