What can I say? This debut collection is a gift. In eight intertwined stories using spare, perfectly measured language, hapa Pakistani American Daniyal Mueenuddin captures the lives of the haves and have-nots – money, position, power – with both precision and grace.
Each of the collection’s characters revolve around the elderly K.K. Harouni, whose extensive household and massive holdings begin in a Pakistani village and emanate far beyond. Each is fighting for survival with various skills: Nawab the electrician gains enormous local status by managing to secure himself a motorcycle, Saleema the servant goes from one man to another searching for comfort and security, Jaglani the skimming land manager succumbs to love late in life, socialite Lily hopes to change her meaningless rituals with marriage, while wandering Rezak falls victim to kind intentions.
Tidbit: Talk about missed opportunities! Mueenuddin was in the River Cluster while I was in Mid-Mass at Dartmouth … we were in the same graduating class, holy moly! And then it turns out we overlapped at Yale for three years, too. And it takes this book to find out about him! His mother is also best friends with the grandmother of our son’s oldest friends – got all that? Anyway, we’re going to work all our angles to try our best to get him to the Smithsonian this fall for the latest SALTAF (South Asian Literature and Theater Arts Festival). Stay tuned!
THIS JUST IN (on April 22, 2009): Mueenuddin is coming to SALTAF 2009. That’s Saturday November 7, 2009. How’s that for some fabulous news??!!
THIS JUST IN (on October 15, 2009): Mueenuddin’s a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award. I swear, I should be a book bookie!