A Moment Comes

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
A Moment Comes Book Poster Image
Moving coming-of-age story set amid creation of Pakistan.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about India during the time Britain ended its sovereignty and created Pakistan as a separate Muslim state (Partition). Big-picture politics are covered in a way kids will understand, and they'll gain a deep appreciation for the effects this large-scale event had on everyday people from differing points of view.

Positive Messages

A central metaphor is how lines on a map separate us as arbitrarily as social, religious, or cultural lines we draw for ourselves and each other. Change is inevitable. All we can do is face it as best we can by acting responsibly, helping others whenever we can, following our conscience, and sometimes forging our own path to the future.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Early on Tariq gets caught up in sectarian violence, knowing it's wrong, and is afraid he may have killed someone. He's very remorseful and learns to avoid future entanglements. His ambition is to study at Oxford University, thinking it's the best way to help the fledgling Pakistan. Anupreet is a dutiful, responsible young lady who longs only to be able to live freely in a peaceful society. Margaret overcomes her prejudices based on ignorance and genuinely wishes to help the less fortunate. Margaret's mother is ambitious and manipulative, but all other parents provide solid foundations for their children as they come of age.


Tariq takes part in a violent raid, which is not described in detail but a hit with a bat causes blood to run from the mouth of an unconscious victim. Elsewhere past violence is mentioned but not described in detail, although some of the imagery is powerful (a train full of corpses, for example). Anupreet's the victim of past violence that's never described but continues to haunt her. Injuries from a brutal beating are described in some detail. It's mentioned a couple of times that women and girls sometimes get taken and "used." A bomb explodes outside a home, and an injured leg is described as a "bloody mess." Tariq threatens Sameer with a knife and draws a drop of blood from his throat.


Margaret had a past entanglement and may have had sex, but it's not explicitly stated that she did. Tariq's attracted to both Anupreet and Margaret, and Margaret finds Tariq attractive, all of which is unspoken and conveyed in looks and behavior. Mention is made that in the past men have purchased cyanide to give to daughters whose "virtue is threatened."


Margaret mentions that Tariq left her a better kind of cigarettes in her secret stash: Luckies. She later mentions them again by brand name, but also refers to them elsewhere without the brand.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Realistic to the 1947 setting, people smoke. Margaret sneaks cigarettes in the garden but knows it's an open secret. Tariq shares a cigarette once with his older brother. Mr. Darnsley smokes a pipe. Mrs. Darnsley's past drinking problem is mentioned, and in one episode she drinks to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Moment Comes is a vivid historical novel that puts a heartbreaking, human face on the events surrounding the creation of Pakistan in 1947. It's a violent time when people, mobs especially, commit violent acts in an endless cycle; the violence isn't gory, but the tension of living with it constantly under the surface pervades the atmosphere. There's no sex, although women and girls as a sexual commodity are mentioned, as is the possibility of Margaret's past sexual relationship (we don't know exactly what happened other than that there was a scandal). The 16- and 17-year-old narrators engage in mildly flirtatious behavior. People smoke in a time when the dangerous health consequences were not widely known.

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What's the story?

Three teenagers, Tariq (a Muslim), Anupreet (a Sikh), and Margaret (a British Christian) come together in northern India in the months before India gains independence from Britain and Pakistan is created. Margaret's father is helping draw the boundaries for the new Pakistan, and Tariq and Anupreet are hired as household servants to the British family. Tariq and Anupreet must wrestle with what will become of them and their families after Partition as all three struggle with the emotional complexities of growing up. Wary and unsure of the cultural differences that at first seem to separate them, those differences disappear when a brush with death brings them together to save Tariq.

Is it any good?

A MOMENT COMES deftly weaves together three different young lives on the verge of tremendous social and emotional change. Jennifer Bradbury's able writing conveys the crushing heartbreak of cyclical violence as finely as the intimacy with which she brings us into their hearts and minds. The different voices are realistic, and Bradbury moves us from one to the next seamlessly. The big-picture historical events and figures are easy to understand without feeling dumbed down and without diminishing their complexity, and a helpful glossary in the back keeps the Indian vocabulary accessible. The artful portraits of all three characters amid epic events will create a new level of understanding for readers turning their thoughts to the larger world around them. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the author's use of these three points of view to tell the story in A Moment Comes. How does each one help you understand what was going on in India when Pakistan was created?

  • What can the cycle of violence between Muslims and Sikhs in India tell us about the violence in today's world, where people of different religions are clashing?

  • What do you think happened to Tariq, Anupreet, and Margaret after the novel ends? Why do you think the story stops where it does?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and coming-of-ages stories

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