In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, is a collection of short stories set in Pakistan during the 1970s through the present.  The stories are tangentially related; the main character of one story may be mentioned in passing in the next story.  The result is that each story can stand on its own, but gradually a larger picture is formed.

The primary focus of the complete story is the disparity within the Pakistani feudal system and how it has both changed in recent times, but doggedly retained its grip on the country’s society despite a slow modernist transition.  Also addressed is the simultaneous power and impotence of the Pakistani female.  Because the book is broken into separate tales, the author is able to offer points of view from various members of society, from powerful landlords to poor serving girls and even introduces an American character later on in the book which offers a remarkable contrast and familiarity for western readers.

The book is beautifully written.  It is poetic and lyrical without being cumbersome.  There is a simple truthfulness in the style that made me immediately feel as if I were reading a fable; something old and filled with truthful wisdom.  His descriptions are elegant, but restrained, and portray a country and its people with quiet, beautiful realism.  Although the majority of these stories do not have typical happy endings, they are still a pleasure to read.  The author has a real knack for creating immediately sympathetic and believable characters.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders won the 2009 National Book Award.  This is Daniyal Mueenuddin’s first book, though his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope and The Best American Short Stories 2008.

Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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