The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
Published: 2011 by Harper Perennial
Source: Received from publisher for review
I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: One of my favorite things about reading is that I learn about people and places that I do not encounter in my everyday life. I have always been a curious person, and I love to take the opportunity to educate myself while enjoying a good story at the same time.
The Good Muslim is a novel that interested me for its setting – Bangladesh – and for its storyline involving the Muslim religion. Alternating between two periods — immediately after Bangladesh declared its independence after a bitter war with Pakistan; and in the mid-1980s — the story focuses on the Haque family and how the country’s history and their religion impacted them.
Brother and sister, Sohail and Maya, were actively involved in the cause of Bangladeshi independence, but because Sohail was directly involved as a soldier, he seemed to be more affected by the horrors of war. He encounters a young woman abandoned in an army outpost on his way home and that changed him, although to me it is never really clear why. He starts to study the Quran at the suggestion of his mother, and he becomes a devout Muslim, in defiance of his lifestyle before the war.
Maya, a medical student, cannot understand the change in her brother, and when he does something that defies everything she thought they were fighting for, she flees into the Bangladeshi countryside, becoming a much-needed midwife to the village’s women. When she returns to her family after an absence of several years, her brother has become a revered religious figure at the expense of ignoring his young son, Zaid, who appears to be more of a street urchin.
I have to say I read parts of this book with the sense that I had missed something in the prior pages. I felt dropped in to Sohail’s post-war trauma without understanding why he was so haunted (aside from the obvious of being in battle, that is); and the climactic end of the book involving Maya and Zaid seemed to me to come out of thin air. But then I noticed in The Feminist Texican’s review that this The Good Muslim is the second book of a planned trilogy, and though she believes the books do not have to be read in order, I think there may have been parts of the storyline that would make more sense to me if I had read book one of the trilogy (A Golden Age) first.
I did enjoy reading the book and learning about how Islam is practiced in Bangladesh, but the story itself confused me at times.
For other opinions of this book, please visit the other stops on this tour.