Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Set in Pakistan, this series of short stories revolves around the servants, family members and employees of wealthy landowner/farm manager K.K. Harouni. Readers only meet Harouni in one story, the rest of the time, he is a mere catalyst, representative of great power and opportunity, or else a figure to be manipulated.
The nice thing about this book is that characters appear several times throughout the different stories at different points in time. For example, Haruoni's nephew Sohail appears in "Lady in Paris," at a turning point in his relationship. He appears again in later stories in a much different type of setting.
The not so nice thing about this book is the abject poverty and sense of hopelessness can be brutal at times. While some of the characters enjoy their meager living situations (see "A Spoiled Man," which had a heartbreaking ending), the majority of the female characters in all of the stories are ruthless in their attempts to break out of their lower lot in life. I'm not ruining anything by saying that none of these stories end on a particularly uplifting note.
Despite the depressing subject matter, I thought the stories were written beautifully and the characters were properly fleshed out and sympathetic. I have a weird natural tendency to read a lot of Indian fiction, so it was a nice change of pace to read about Pakistani life.

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