"In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” is Daniyal Mueenuddin’s debut collection of short stories. The tales circle around the connected lives of a large land-owning family in modern-day Pakistan, headed by K.K. Harouni, an old feudal land-owner. As the stories overlap, we follow the lives and struggles of his extended family as well as the servants, managers and peasants. Mueenuddin’s story-telling gives the reader an insight into a feudal world that is giving way to modernity, a process that is currently taking place in Pakistan. And we learn about how people struggle for acceptance and existence as they face the misunderstandings and tragedies of everyday life.
The eight linked short stories cover the themes of love, hope, disappointment, loss and change as they depict the lives of the rich and the very poor. The author describes how everyone has their own way of surviving. In the first story, for example, we follow the hardworking electrician, Nawabdin, who has 11 daughters and survives by stealing electricity from the farm in order to run his business. In contrast, we have the fancy and indulgent Mino who imports sand to the farm for a “Night of the Tsunami” party.
Mueenuddin also touches upon the precarious position of women in Pakistan. Since a woman’s standing is defined by the man by her side, the female characters struggle with feelings of powerlessness and so use the limited resources at their disposal to improve their position in society. In all of this, Mueenuddin manages to avoid any tone of moral superiority. Instead he brilliantly captures the way of thinking and way of expression of the characters irrespective of class, which is a real pleasure to read.
As the title implies, "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” provides many angles, or windows, that the reader looks out from. By linking humour and tragedy Mueenuddin reveals the complexities of Pakistani class and culture and manages to paint a very vivid picture of a world in transformation and.
Daniyal Mueenuddin himself was brought up in Pakistan and the US and attended Darthmouth and Yale. He practiced law in New York for several years but decided to return to his father’s homeland and he now lives on a farm in rural Punjab. His collection of short stories has already won several awards, is a New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
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