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Fidali's Way: A Novel Hardcover – January 6, 2009
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"Killers of the Flower Moon" is a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. See more
From Publishers Weekly
Nick Sunder, a disillusioned Boston lawyer, has been backpacking in Asia for more than a year when disaster strikes at the start of Mastras's stirring first novel: the police in Peshawar, Pakistan, arrest him for cutting his French girlfriend's throat. Innocent of the crime, Sunder escapes custody by killing a cop. He heads into the Himalayas on foot, and after several weeks arrives at a remote medical clinic in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, where he gets a job as an aid worker, falls in love with a female Muslim doctor and witnesses horrifying acts of terrorism. Mastras, a TV writer (Breaking Bad) who's trekked through Asia himself, delivers a winding, character-rich plot full of authentic detail and regional history. While sentimentality mars some passages, the odysseylike story grips. Though Sunder's naïveté can be distracting at times, readers will cheer him along his path toward spiritual renewal, guided by the wisdom and advice of the titular Fidali, whom he meets on his journey. (Jan.)
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"Just when you think it's not possible to read a debut novel that offers something fresh, a book comes along that catches you off-guard.... Fidali's Way is a lushly written, panoramic view of the hills of Pakistan, the violent conflicts nestled within this far-flung locale and the damaged souls of its main characters - especially Nick Sunder, an American traveler looking for a sliver of meaning after a life chasing materialistic dreams. That simple goal seems to crash down with the brutal murder of his current lover and his escape to the village of Gilkamosh after police suspicion prompts a horrifying interrogation. Nick is the story's linchpin, but its soul is Aysha, a beautiful young woman whose quest to study and practice medicine puts her at odds with her deeply fundamentalist community. The caldron stirs its ingredients to a boiling point, producing climaxes of violence that leave impact lasting like a brand placed on unwelcoming skin." -- The Baltimore Sun --The Baltimore Sun, January 4th, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel essentially follows Nick, an American expat who finds himself in trouble with the Pakistani police after his French girlfriend, Yvette, is found murdered, in a remote part of Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. The events leading up to Yvette's death remain a compelling mystery until later in the book, but we get enough hints and glimpses to keep us wondering, and to understand why Nick flees from the police into the dangerous tribal areas, rampant with Taliban militants and drug smugglers. From there, he heads east into the Himalayas, where he crosses the dangerous "Line of Control" into the Indian side of Kashmir. Nick is only able to survive the harrows of this route through the guidance of two local smugglers who befriend him along the way. Once across, and while still in hiding from police (now the Indians), Nick begins to work at an outpost hospital clinic run by a beautiful female doctor, Aysha, whose ex-lover, Kazim, left her to join a cell of muhajideen insurgents fighting against Indian rule. As these lives intersect (or rather, come crashing together), they are all changed in profound ways.
The book reminds me somewhat of Alex Garland's "The Beach" because it's largely a literary thriller set in an exotic land that deals with fanaticism (in a different form than in "The Beach") and the effects of colliding cultures. At the same time, the novel has an extreme sense of place, in the vein of EM Foerster and Rudyard Kipling, with its richly-described characters and living, breathing picture of the tribal areas of Pakistan and the rugged mountain landscape of Kashmir (the author apparently spent time in the region, so his descriptions are authentic). The story is also one of redemption and self-discovery, and thus, in this way, it reminds me a bit of Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge."
Although Nick's storyline is the centerpiece and vehicle through which the story moves, I found Aysha and Kazim's storyline to be the most emotional. That being said, I was moved by Nick's character-arc and how he's motivated to change by his relationships with the smugglers. Despite all that, on a very basic level, I had to know who killed Yvette and read the book quickly to find out.
This book has a political edge that should not be overlooked given the devastating effects the conflict over Kashmir continues to have on the world around it - the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks being a case in point. Fortunately, there was nothing preachy, distracting or narrow-minded about the author's handling of these issues. It did give me a new understanding and insight into what's really at stake in the conflict - not just Kashmir's place in the larger worldwide clash between the West and fanatical jihadists - but on a more human level.
This novel is a must read. I highly recommend it.
What starts out as a formula misunderstood-foreigner-in-trouble story becomes something much deeper as it explores the unique geography and people in an area of the world few North Americans have experienced. There are vivid descriptions of the dangerous, unique, and beautiful terrain that makes up the section of Asia tucked under the western Himalayas down into Pakistan and India and characters that represent the wide variety of peoples and languages that populate the area in various states of conflict, harmony, religions, politics, and ways of looking at life. The events and trials he experiences on the way along with the insight he gains from conversations with his new friend, Ghulam, lead Nick to a better understanding of himself and his own life choices.
There is also parallel story of two children from a small village in Kashmir and the very different choices and paths they take into adulthood as the villagers help the girl to become a doctor while the influence of foreign mullahs in a local madrassa convince the boy to become a violent mujahid. Their stories eventually intersect with Nick's journey with profound consequences for them all.