Update 4/12/10: In Other Rooms was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction – well deserved!
There are few positive things to be said for a week with bronchitis but one, for me, was the opportunity to finish the story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. I’ve already reviewed two individual stories: “Nawabdin Electrician” and “About a Burning Girl“. I won’t go into detail about the remaining stories other than to say I highly recommend that you read them. Each story stands alone as a little masterpiece, well worth the time and effort to read.
I believe that the collection is bookended by the two best stories – “Nawabdin Electrician” and “A Spoiled Man”. These stories illustrate the best of human nature with protagonists who rise above the harsh daily life of a troubled country. Rezak, the hero of “A Spoiled Man”, is one of the most endearing characters I’ve encountered in a long time. He is able to appreciate what is undeniably a hardscrabble existence – a Middle Eastern Candide. And unlike other stories in this collection, there are people around him who recognize his gentle optimism and appreciate him for it. This doesn’t spare him misfortune, but the story shows a sympathetic side of the Pakistani character that isn’t evident in many of the others. It is a lovely story and leaves a strong impression at the end of an impressive book.
As I’ve said in my other reviews of these stories, the insight into the lifestyles of the Pakistani people was fascinating to me, and the collection varied enough that we see rich and poor, benevolent and base, giving and grasping. Ultimately I was left with the impression that while there are many deep-seated cultural differences between the people of Pakistan and the people I know, most are superficial manifestations of the basic humanity we all share.