This was a selection for my IRL book club that I’m pretty sure I never would have picked up on my own, but I’m glad I did. If nothing else, I’ve discovered that Syed Masood has a fantastic way with words. I don’t usually care about the actual writing in books very much; I prefer for it to fade into the background, but here he’s just so smart! And clever and funny. I wish I had liked the story he was telling more.
This is described as a comic novel, but I really don’t think I would describe it that way. It is funny in places because that’s just Masood’s style, but it’s also very, very serious and deals with heavy, depressing topics. Our two main characters, Azza and Anvar are from immigrant families (Pakistan and Iraq) and the book explores their pre-immigration life, and then how it is to fit into the U.S. as both part of the larger country and also as part of a community of immigrant Muslims. The book has a nuanced take on culture and religion, and you can tell that a lot of Anvar’s feelings come from the author’s personal experience.
In terms of style, this is actually really great for lit-fic. So unpretentious and yet smart, so full of feeling and great characters, yet it has a considered, thoughtful way of looking at the world. I just had a really hard time getting through it after about the first 100 pages, mostly because Azza’s story is so depressing (though it does end on an upbeat note).
I will be watching for this author in the future.