Title: The Good Muslim
Author: Tahmima Anam
Publication Year: 2011
Source: Review copy from the publisher
From the cover:
In the dying days of a brutal civil war, Sohail Haque stumbles upon an abandoned building. Inside he finds a young woman whose story will haunt him for a lifetime to come… Almost a decade later, Sohail’s sister, Maya, returns home after a long absence to find her beloved brother transformed. While Maya has stuck to her revolutionary ideals, Sohail has shunned his old life to become a charismatic religious leader. And when Sohail decides to send his son to a madrasa, the conflict between brother and sister comes to a devastating climax. Set in Bangladesh at a time when religious fundamentalism is on the rise, The Good Muslim is an epic story about faith, family, and the long shadow of war.
Of all of the books I’ve read in the past month, this has probably been the best so far.
For starters, I learned so much about the revolution in Bangladesh from this book, both from a secular point of view and as an explanation for some of the religious fundamentalism that came about after the split from Pakistan. In particular, I learned about the way women were involved in the war, and how they were treated (during and afterwards) through Maya’s character. I really loved reading about her experiences as a “woman doctor” in the countryside – while it wasn’t happy reading, it was definitely interesting and thought-provoking.
And the character of Sohail was even more fascinating. At first, I wanted to really like him – he came across as charismatic and intelligent on the one hand and … well, like a stereotypical Muslim fundamentalist on the other. He was an extremely complex character; right up until the end of The Good Muslim, I still couldn’t figure out what to think of him, and I’m not sure that I will ever be completely at peace with one single interpretation of his character. Anam created such a complicated, realistic character in Sohail – as well as with the other central characters – that I could almost feel them coming right off of the page.
In terms of the representation of Islam, this book showed some very personal, individual (and yet also universal) interpretations through different characters in the story. I really enjoyed how she showed a variety of different ways of practicing Islam and generally let the reader understand each one on their own.
I definitely recommend The Good Muslim for pretty much anyone interested in Bangladesh, Islamic fundamentalism, and the aftermath of revolution. This was a fascinating and emotionally challenging read.
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.