Description: In collection of eight linked short stories, the lives of landowners and their workers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan are explored.
Review: Mueenuddin takes a critical look at the lives of several social classes in his debut collection of short stories. The eight stories explore relationships among the descendants of the super-rich Harouni farming family, living near Lahore, those who work on the farm, and those who marry (often unhappily) into it. Each stories are slices of life, giving the reader a glimpse of daily life. The stories are full with indigenous detail which had me transported to my last visit in Pakistan along with subtle understanding of their characters’ complex experiences and destinies.
No one is spared criticism and heartbreak in any of these stories. Servants use their years of loyalty working for their masters in hopes of getting support in return. Women expertly use their sensuality to ensnare a well off suitor and try to move up the social and security ladder are fatalistically ironic. Blind justice and characters who can almost grasp happiness are also recurring features in the short stories.
Out of all the stories, my favorites are “Lily” and “Provide, Provide”. In “Lily,” we see the beginning of a budding and promising relationship. Just as the “honeymoon phase” is over, we began to witness its slow deterioration. “Provide, Provide,” features the cunning and ambitious Zainab who insinuates herself among the Harounis, abandoning her weakling and drug addict husband to marry a well-placed household servant, only to lose everything. Mueenuddin is a very skillful and talented writer that left me wanting more. I will definitely pick up his next work.
Readalikes: Interpreters of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Dubliners by James Joyce, Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki