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Customer Review

71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and bittersweet, January 1, 2012
This review is from: American Dervish: A Novel (Hardcover)
Title explanation: A dervish is a person who gives up everything for Allah.

In 1990, Hayat, from a Pakistani family, is in college. The death of his "aunt" Mina causes him to reflect on her story, and on events that occurred as he was growing up. It tells of his parents' less-than-happy marriage, and the different ways in which his parents shaped his views, as well as of Hamad's immersion in the Quran, with the resultant initial rigid set of beliefs that spur him to actions that he is ashamed of later in life.

Mina Ali is his mother Irshad's best friend from Pakistan. After an arranged marriage to a husband who allows his mother to abuse her, followed by a divorce when Mina is in the maternity ward, Irshad and Naveed (Hayat's father) persuade Mina's parents to allow her and her 2-year-old-son, Imran, to stay with them in America.

How do I describe this one without spoilers? As a reader who is always interested in other cultures, but especially fascinated by stories of other cultures living in America, this was a mind-opener. The parallels here between fundamentalist Christians and their strict, close-minded sets of beliefs and hard-line Muslims are equally full of intolerance.

Mina is a lovely, intelligent woman, and the choices she makes based on her religion are rather tragic in consequence.

Seeing how Hayat's beliefs were whittled and shaped reminds me of my own spiritual growth, and will likely remind you of your own.

I loved the characters and the story. I felt very invested in Mina, and her story is one that will resonate with you as well, dear reader.

The story of Nathan, Naveed's best friend and colleague, the son of a Holocaust survivor, is bittersweet.

There are injustices here, and adultery, and women whose potential is quashed. It is sad in places, hopeful in others, but very real and impactful.

I highly recommend it.

QUOTES

"Hayat, her intelligence has been the curse of her life. When a Muslim woman is too smart, she pays the price for it. And she pays the price not in money, behta, but in abuse."

"I know that you won't understand why I burned your Quran, but there was a reason. It's because you're different. You can't live life by rules others give you. In that way, you and I are the same. You have to find your own rules. All my life I've been running away from their rules, Hayat. All my life. You will be the same. Don't ask me how I know it, but I do."

"So what do I do? I ask her, like any normal person would, 'Why, Najat, does your husband beat you? Hmm?' "
Mother was absorbed in the moment, as if reliving it.
" 'Because we need it,' she says. 'Because it's something about our nature. Something that needs to know its limits.' My jaw hit the floor, Hayat. I looked at her and thought to myself, this is an insane asylum . . . "

Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 4.5 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 18, 2012 12:17:40 PM PDT
Janet Rowell says:
Lovely review, Julie. I appreciate the care you took to give us a good sense of the novel without ruining the discoveries to be made along the way. Thanks!

Posted on Sep 19, 2012 1:30:31 PM PDT
Ed Morgan says:
Thank you for the quotations and the scoring breakdown, and thanks for taking the time to write the review.
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Location: Cleveland, Ohio United States

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