The Good Muslim
Published by HarperCollins
Purchased by me, in the last days of Borders
This book ended my spate of meh-ness. After a string of books that didn’t do much for me, I picked up this baby (okay, mostly because of the beautiful cover, but also because I’d never read a book set in Bangladesh) and got sucked into a story set in Bangladesh. The story alternates between time periods, although the characters remain the same. Maya and Sohail are siblings who supported (and in Sohail’s case, fought in) Bangladesh’s war for independence. However, after independence, the siblings take radically different paths. When Sohail embraces religion, Maya cannot come to terms with her brother’s change, and she leaves the family to wander, and ultimately become a village doctor. Years later, Maya returns home after the death of her equally religious sister-in-law. Still confounded by her brother’s views, Maya becomes determined to intervene in the life of her young nephew, who she feels is not being afforded the education and care he deserves. The siblings struggle (passive-aggressively) over the young boy until Maya eventually gains a greater understanding of the choices her brother has made.
While I don’t understands conservative religious views, either, I did struggle with Maya’s seeming disinterest in why her brother turned to religion. The family has a lot of secrets, and no one is very forthcoming about why they do what they. It takes years of separation and tragedy for the siblings to gain an understanding of each other, and although I hesitate to use the word respect, to at least stop dismissing each other’s choices.
Although at times confusing, this books offers a brief glimpse into Bangladeshi life, both immediately following the civil war, and years after independence. It touches on some of the political turmoil of the country, and left me googling Bangladesh to fill in some of the gaps. It also doesn’t go into detail about religion…Sohail is religious, and appears disinterested in secular life, but beyond some of the daily religious practices there’s not much commentary on his religion. It’s obvious Maya disagrees with Sohail’s choices, but I never got a good understanding of why she But that’s okay with me. Sometimes it’s nice to not be preached at. (Although the brief foray into the world of madrassas wasn’t very positive.)
Okay, I’m rambling. Despite the lack of some things, I do appreciate it when author’s don’t spend all their time on religious and political backstory, because, you know, there are lots of people who aren’t Americans who are largely ignorant about the culture and geography of other places (and while I do consider myself fairly up on geography, I know jack shit about political history).
Oops, still rambling.
Let’s just say I liked this book. A lot. But if you read it, know going into it that there will be large chunks Bangladeshi history that will remain a mystery.