Saturday, January 15, 2011

book review: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

In Other Rooms, Other WondersThe backstory: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Literature and a 2009 National Book Award Finalist.

The basics: This set of interconnected short stories examines life in Pakistan from many perspectives and utilizes a variety of narrators.

My thoughts: It's relatively well known around here that short stories are not my favorite medium, but I do have a fondness for interconnected short stories because they can often contain novel-like elements. The interconnection in these stories comes from the casual mention of mostly minor characters in other stories. Together, however, these stories help paint an ambitious portrait of people in a place. 

Mueenuddin's writing style is straightforward but powerful. His characterizations of people and their actions are complex, but the language he uses is not:
These new powers changed him. Because he had no higher ambitions, he became impartial. By temperament orderly, within this isolated area he sought to impose harmony and prosperity.
I also appreciated the gentle humor Mueenuddin used to describe his characters:
I enjoy this paper because it gives me absolutely no information except that which is sponsored by the government. It never disrupts my morning.
One of the reasons I enjoy novels so much are the characters, and the characters shined clearly through these stories:
Instead he put her in the office of the secretary, who every afternoon took down in shorthand a few pages of Mr. Harouni's memoirs, cautiously titled Perhaps This Happened.
The arrangement of this collection did not particularly suit me. I found myself enjoying the earlier stories more (pacing is something I often struggle with when reading story collections.)

Favorite passage: "These experiences had not cracked her hard skin, but made her sensual, unscrupulous--and romantic."

The verdict: I enjoyed some stories more than others,  there wasn't enough interconnection among the stories for this novel-lover to fully embrace this collection. I did enjoy Mueenuddin's writing and storytelling, and I look forward to reading his novel. He is a fascinating, emerging, literary talent. 

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 256 pages
Publication date: February 1, 2009 (it's in paperback now) 
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

Treat yourself! Purchase In Other Rooms, Other Wonders from Amazon or an independent bookstore.

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  1. Great review! This book has been on my radar for awhile - I will have to make an effort to pick it up!

  2. I have been wanting to read this book, though it doesn't sound as cohesive as I may have hoped. Very thoughtful review on this one. I still really want to pick it up.


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