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The Bargain from the Bazaar: A Family's Day of Reckoning in Lahore Hardcover – March 11, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ullah spent more than eight years researching this true story of a Pakistani family, the Rezas (whose names are changed to protect their identities). The highly readable narrative, moving from 2008 through 2012, illustrates how the Reza family members adapted and endured in a culture that had been ripped from them by British rule and then returned under the interfering thumbs of the U.S., Russia, and others, with a political structure cobbled together from a host of competing traditions, including feudalism, Islamism, and Western-style representational government. Reza family patriarch Awais, a shopkeeper in Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar, fought in the Bangladesh War. His three sons chose distinct paths—shopkeeper, like his father; law student; and suicide bomber (one of the ultraholy men hell-bent on pleasing God in heaven). Their mother, Shez, never lost her faith in her family, herself (she became a nurse), or her religion. Ullah’s straightforward depiction of bravery, love, and hard and illuminating truths about contemporary Pakistan—a shaky nation that might just hold the key to victory over the superpowers of terror—makes this an excellent book-club choice. --Eloise Kinney


“As a longtime scholar, diplomat, and writer on South Asia, Haroon Ullah understands the complexities of modern South Asia. In The Bargain from the Bazaar, he takes us back to the most romanticized corner of Lahore to show how generational change requires us to shift our focus in understanding modern Pakistan. Neither the lens of Partition nor tensions with India capture the country’s profound internal transformations as it grasps for stability. This powerful and gripping account of a family struggle in the middle of chaos fills the void. A must-read for anyone.” -Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Zealot

“In The Bargain from The Bazaar, Haroon Ullah has narrated a fascinating portrait of a family set against the backdrop of Pakistan's history and politics. Malala and I both so enjoyed this stunning debut that brings to light so many of the issues that she has devoted her life to seeing exposed and resolved.” —Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai, best-selling author of I am Malala

“Ullah intimately examines the effects of America's War on Terror on the everyday people of Pakistan through the story of one family living and working in Lahore….Using a sharp journalistic eye, Ullah brings the bustle of Lahore and its market to life. He manages to quietly convey America's role in the conditions facing this long-troubled country without becoming preachy or needlessly partisan. Ullah is more interested in the common Pakistani experience and he makes these moments shine…These instances powerfully demystify Pakistan for western audiences.”——Publishers Weekly starred review

“[A] highly readable narrative….Ullah’s straightforward depiction of bravery, love, and hard and illuminating truths about contemporary Pakistan—a shaky nation that might just hold “the key to victory over the superpowers of terror”—makes this an excellent book-club choice.” ——Booklist

The Bargain from The Bazaar is simply remarkable. There is no other way to describe it. Haroon Ullah's deep understanding of the South Asian culture and his masterful story telling makes this book a masterpiece. Through Haroon Ullah's vivid imagery, I was again transported back to the streets that I once frequented. I knew these people, I know these people. This book is a reminder of the struggles people face every day in that part of the world. Haroon Ullah has done an amazing job of telling their story. Bravo!” —Faran Tahir, CEO of Javelin Media and Hollywood actor/star in Star Trek, Iron Man and Elysium

"In The Bargain Bazaar, Haroon Ullah delivers a moving portrait of a family struggling amidst the chaos of living in Pakistan. Ullah's rich storytelling brings the setting to life and helps to illuminate the country's complex history and politics. A wonderful debut from a promising young scholar."—Jared Cohen, founder and director of Google Ideas and author of The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business

“A powerful story that fills a real void from one of the best young scholars and frontline diplomats in tumultuous South Asia.” —Parag Khanna, author ofThe Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order

“We finally have a senior Pakistani-American diplomat commenting on the explosive interaction between the state, democracy and religion in a Muslim country. And Haroon Ullah delivers. He offers an insightful and nuanced perspective that benefits from his deep knowledge and experience of the field. As nothing can be more important to the US than to build bridges with the Muslim world, this book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand a major Muslim country like Pakistan and the challenges it faces today.” —Ambassador Akbar Ahmed Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, Washington, DC and former Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

“The Bargain from the Bazaar' is an epic novel of family life in contemporary Pakistan from a fresh, sure voice. I read this novel in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it.”—Eboo Patel, author Acts of Faith and Sacred Ground

"The Bargain from the Bazaar: A Family’s Day of Reckoning in Lahore is a refreshing perspective on the current political situation in Pakistan...it offers valuable insight into a country constantly on the news...while the public is inundated with notions like drones, Malala, and suicides attacks, few people have a grasp as to what they actually refer to, and more importantly how they shape the lives of average people, which makes The Bargain from the Bazaar timely and necessary reading.... The insights offered are useful to everyone, from Pakistan policy analysts to those simply seeking a good, human story of resilience."—The International Examiner

“Haroon Ullah has crafted a masterful story that epitomises the ideological tussle of modern Pakistan. Through the eyes of a middle-class family in Lahore, Ullah captures the everyday struggles between families and generations, set against the background of a crumbling state. In a vivid portrayal of Pakistani life, Ullah’s story weighs the human quest for identity against the deepest divisions in the nation’s social, economic and political order.
Ullah’s novel is haunting and gripping. His descriptions of Pakistan’s tumultuous governance befit an accomplished scholar and native son. A must-read for any hoping to understand the depth of divisions in Pakistani culture—and the human cost of radicalization.” —Sajjad Karim, member of the European Parliament

“Haroon Ullah has vividly humanized the challenge Pakistan faces in the explosive mixture of religion and politics. Ullah brings to the expertise of a scholar with first-hand knowledge of the country and culture and the perspective on U.S. policy of a diplomat who was a member the late Richard Holbrooke’s “AfPak” team. The result is authoritative, insightful, and timely.” —Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution

"The real bargain in this book is the view it provides of a human Pakistan behind the headline news. The engaging story of Awais and his merchant family brings us face to face with real people enmeshed in the counter currents of a tumultuous history, one they keep trying tos shape to meet their needs." —Michael Wolfe, author of One Thousand Roads to Mecca and Taking Back Islam

“Pakistan is a country that will remain critically important to US policy makers for decades to come and yet it is a country about which most Americans remain woefully uneducated…..Mr. Ullah’s desire to shine a light on Pakistan’ s middle class in a city like Lahore is an admirable one.”—Wall Street Journal

“The book reads like a novel—whose rich dialogue, colorful characters, and vivid descriptions of Lahore blend seamlessly with historical context to offer glimpses of a Pakistan we rarely see.”—Mother Jones

“The Bargain From the Bazaar…introduces readers to an entirely different side of the Pakistani people…[it] is a compilation of eight years of research in Pakistan interviewing the country's middle-class business owners, lower-class shopkeepers, officials and politicians. [Ullah] even interviewed key people involved with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Haqqani.”—Tri-City Herald

“Nuclear-armed Pakistan, overrun by crime, corruption, poverty and religious extremism, has been written off as a ruined state. However, in The Bargain from the Bazaar…Ullah, a Pakistani-American diplomat and field researcher, gives us an alternative perspective on the country. Ullah has chosen to offer us insight into the Pakistani society with a portrayal of challenges encountered by the Rezas, a middle-class family in Lahore…. The adversity the Reza family experiences without succumbing is a testament to human resiliency. Perhaps therein lies the country’s best hope.”—Seattle Times

"The Bargain from the Bazaar offers a journey into the true heart of Pakistan, where hope and love still bind families together.”—Steve Scher, NPR public radio host, Seattle, Washington

“The Bargain from the Bazaar spotlights complexities that are essential for understanding Pakistan and its people.”—Alan Wallace, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391667
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391665
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,145,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I would love to tell all my friends to read this book. It's informative and compelling. But the horrible dialogue and sappy ending nearly negate the gripping tale.
I wish there had been an editor working closer with this author because this is indeed a book worth reading.
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Although not usually a reader of nonfiction, the glowing reviews of this book made me very curious. I can’t say I was disappointed. The author has done an excellent job of painting a picture of Pakistan that helps reveal the complexities of that country. By looking at one family’s experience, the reader can get an impression of the many disparate forces at work in that land. My heart goes out to that family who are caught between a desire for the best for their sons, a love of their country as it has been for them, and the forces that are intent on taking their land back to the dark ages. As a mother of two very different sons, I could relate how brothers raised under the same roof each receiving the same love of parents can go very different ways.

The author gives just enough history of Pakistan before presenting the lives of the Reza family. He doesn’t spend time attempting to explain the political situation and the deep corruption of the government but shows how the politics and corruption affect this one family. Every direction the family turns is filled with uncertainty and danger. I can’t even begin to imagine living life like that.

My only complaint about the book is the style of the dialogue. Ullah is definitely an experienced writer of non-fiction; he is more interested in facts than emotional connection with the reader. While much of the dialogue was very believable, it seemed stilted and “informative” rather than the natural give and take between speakers. Minor concern: it is a book worth reading to help those of us who live in an isolated world walk for just a short time in very unfamiliar shoes.
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Format: Hardcover
The Harvard educated author is Pakistani-American. He has travelled extensively throughout much of Pakistan in both official and unofficial capacities, including the northwest provinces, which are bastions of Islamic insurgency. In writing this book, which is a work of non-fiction, he conducted many interviews with many people in Pakistan from all walks of life in an effort to write about the real Pakistan. Along the way way, he encountered the Reza family.

This is their story. It is the story of a family caught in the cross-currents of political and religious upheaval in modern day Pakistan. It is the story of a man, his wife, and their three sons. It is about the life choices that they each make, and the resultant consequences those choices have on each of them, as well as on their family. The choices one of them makes however, are earthshattering, given the political and religious climate, forever changing the trajectory of all their otherwise ordinary lives.

Well-written and gripping in the telling, I was riveted from start to finish. Though some of it is predictable, that is simply reflective of life itself, no matter where one is born and raised. Still, it is still an eye opener into the concerns of a Pakistani family in the climate of religious zealotry that now permeates throughout that country. It is an insightful and thought provoking work of non-fiction and simply fascinating.
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Format: Hardcover
I gave this book 4 stars because I really did like the premise of the book, the story of a middle class family shaped by the social and political changes of Pakistan. It is a great approach in understanding the intricacies of Pakistan through the story of a family that is deeply affected by it from the father to the all 3 sons. However, the intricacies of Pakistan's political and social changes that I was looking for were too simplified and bogged down by the overly done dialogues of the characters.

The format of the story takes that of a novel, it begins with a grand sweep of the political and historical backgrounds of the country of Pakistan and the city of Lahore and then goes into the background of the Reza family. Over the course of the book, the character's dialogues explain and give voice to commentary on the events. It's amazing what the family goes through over the years.Their story as well as the story of countless other families needs to be told since it humanizes and makes the realities of Pakistan even more real.

I'm not going to give away the ending, but it was all to predictable and wrapped up too nicely at the end. I liked reading the book and would recommend it to anyone who wants an introduction to Pakistan. But if you are looking for more nuanced and in depth reporting and understanding, then this book does not provide that.
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Format: Hardcover
A highly readable account of the current situation in Pakistan centered on the Reza family whose head Awais is an ex soldier turned merchant espousing a middle class life style from his shop in the bazaar. You follow with anguish the travail of his wife and sons, one of which becomes a suicide bomber. Clearly conveyed are the human elements and attitudes of Pakistani society at both ends of the spectrum from decency and honesty to radical fundamentalism. In the end honesty prevails, a welcome change from the more rabid portrayals of Pakistan offered by the media and others. The author has done a sterling job of weaving his research and interviews into a must read.
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