American Dervish (Review)

Book cover for "American Dervish" by Ayad Akhtar.Title: American Dervish

Author/Narrator: Ayad Akhtar

Publication Year: 2012

Pages: 368 (audio length: 9 hours 28 minutes)

Genre: Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from

From the cover:

Hayat Shah was captivated by Mina long before he met her: his mother’s beautiful, brilliant, and soulfully devout friend is a family legend. When he learns that Mina is leaving Pakistan to live with the Shahs in America, Hayat is thrilled.

Hayat’s father is less enthusiastic. He left the fundamentalist world behind with reason. What no one expects is that when Mina shows Hayat the beauty and power of the Quran, it will utterly transform the boy.

Mina’s real magic may be that the Shah household, always contentious and sad, becomes a happy one. But when Mina finds her own path to happiness, the ember of jealousy in Hayat’s heart is enflamed by the community’s anti-Semitism – and he acts with catastrophic consequences for those he loves most.

This book was a surprise addition to the month’s line-up. I stumbled on it when browsing Audible a day or two before I left on my vacation, downloaded it in a hurry, and then worried about reading the description in greater detail later.

There are really two main threads in American Dervish: Hayat’s coming-of-age story and Mina’s own story. Both are touching and heartbreaking, but in very different ways. They’re also extremely intertwined with each other … I have to say that there were points in the book where I was definitely taking sides.

One of the fascinating parts of this book is that such depth of emotion comes through even though most of it is narrated through the eyes of a very young boy. At times, I would have liked to have heard more about Mina’s story through her own words and experiences, but there’s something about the filter of Hayat that makes the story more poignant in the end.

I think that Akhtar did a great job both as the author and the narrator. He really brought the characters – complete with their accents and individual emotions – through to me as a reader/listener. It’s a story about what it means to be part of a family of a cultural minority in the United States, but it’s also a story about the intricacies of navigating both your faith and your familial relationships.

American Dervish tells the story of an extraordinary woman through the eyes of a struggling little boy. It was poignant and beautiful and I highly recommend it.


This book is a part of the Ramadan Reading event happening here this month.

You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.

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