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In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  3,932 ratings  ·  612 reviews
In the spirit of Joyce's Dubliners and Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches, Daniyal Mueenuddin's collection of linked stories illuminates a place and a people through an examination of the entwined lives of landowners and their retainers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan. An aging feudal landlord's household staff, the villagers who de ...more
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published January 5th 2009 by W. W. Norton (first published January 1st 2009)
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The Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best South Asian Fiction
51st out of 443 books — 1,335 voters
Moth Smoke by Mohsin HamidThe Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin HamidKartography by Kamila ShamsieA Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed HanifCracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa
Notable Books by Pakistani Authors
14th out of 160 books — 148 voters


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Community Reviews

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Teresa
Perhaps it's not the best idea to learn contemporary sociology from fictional short stories, but it's not a bad place to start if the stories are as good as these. Twentieth (and early-21st) century Pakistan is presented here through the eyes of the landowners and their peons. All levels of society (the 'middle' class is only glancingly represented by the landowners' 'managers') work the system, some in order to survive, others to get as much as they can. The rich aren't necessarily getting rich ...more
Furqan
Overrated, pretentious twaddle. I am surprised at the amount of positive reviews this short story collection seems to be receiving, with some over-enthusiastic reviewers comparing Mueenuddin's prose to that of Salman Rushdie, which I find very hilarious. Rushdie's prose is complex, lyrical and iridescent, whereas Mueenuddin's prose is restrained (in a bad way) and the sentences irregular and pointy that it stings your eyes to read them. The dialogue could be best described as theatrical and conf ...more
Ruby
Good Read. Clear, easy to follow, and very well written. Only one small problem - and maybe this is a problem that only applies to me - I felt like I was reading a book by Jhumpa Lahiri, or Anita Desai, or even Salman Rushdie. It seems, to me, that many authors from the far east are feeding off of each others literary techniques... What is it about brown authors using the same style of writing? The same extended metaphor that goes on for pages. The flowery language that's used to describe every ...more
Tatiana
Jun 16, 2010 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in foreign cultures
I know next to nothing about Pakistan, aside from the fact that this country seems to be overrun by terrorists, so reading this Pulitzer prize nominated collection of short stories gave me a new perspective on the country and people who live in it.

The eight loosely interconnected stories revolve around K.K. Harouni - a rich Pakistani landowner - and a network of his servants, employees, relatives and opportunists. In "Saleema" a young maid seeks patronage in Harouni's household in the beds of o
...more
Greg Zimmerman
You've never read anything like this slim volume of eight interconnected short stories about life in modern Pakistan. I can almost guarantee it. Rescued from obscurity by its 2009 National Book Award nomination, Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is a blend of portraits of Pakistani people, both rich and poor. The effect is a holistic image of everyday life in a country stuck in an seemingly endless loop of feudalism and class struggle.

Mueenuddin, who was born to a Pakistani fath
...more
Abby
Most of these stories are not stories. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They are propelled by characterization, suspense, plot, and insights. Some of the stories, most notably Our Lady of Paris, seem to be pastiches of thoughts strung together. These stories are supposed to be portentous but they just seem like hastily scribbled notes -- observations made by the author throughout his peripatetic life in Pakistan, Michigan, Dartmouth, and Yale Law School.

Yes, the author knows what he's
...more
Mmars
Occasionally a book makes the reader realize how little they know of its subject matter. Such was my experience with “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders”. There is a plethora of literature from some Asian countries, particularly India, Japan, and China. But reading this book of connected stories set in post-partition Pakistan left me wondering. Especially wondering how many misconceptions I had of the country post-9/11. Placed in chronological order, the settings, lives and characters at first held c ...more
·Karen·
Normally the glowing endorsements on the back and inside cover of every publication should be taken in the same spirit as any other kind of advertising-speak. It's sometimes entertaining to see how many synonyms can be found for engrossing, but since just about every piece of fiction is described as captivating/mesmerising/enrapturing/ those words become flat and meaningless. So what can I say? To add to my troubles, as someone who has the conceit to post reviews of books I've read I also have t ...more
Will Byrnes
Mueenuddin has put together a collection of stories that offers a less than flattering portrait of Pakistan. But while the social structures that come under his gaze are less than ideal, his writing is top notch, his ability to create memorable and accessible characters is superb. The organizing methodology here is that each of the stories connects with K.K. Harouni, patriarch of a family in a declining landed class. He is almost an innocent, not noticing that his servants are taking extreme, an ...more
James Murphy
Mueenuddin has given us 8 linked short stories about modern Pakistan as experienced by the landowner K. K. Harouni, members of his family, and others within his orbit, so that every stratum of that contemporary society seems to be touched. It's a portrait of a culture that is, to us, murky and complex. Understandably, strong characterizations need to be rooted in a work of such fertile scope, and Mueenuddin has succeeded with richly rounded people who are hopefully fatalistic, caring, and pragma ...more
Raghu
I picked up this book as it has had good reviews from writers I respect - like William Dalrymple and Salman Rushdie. It has been a long time since I read a book by a Pakistani writer. Even this author, is a Pakistani-American rather than a native Pakistani. It is collection of loosely-connected short stories, the connection being a rich landowner/industrialist in Punjab called K.K.Harouni. Two stories are set amongst the upper class members of the Harouni family and the rest are about lowly-paid ...more
Hannah
I've been lazy lately about writing reviews, but I feel like I need to write about this book just to think it through. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is a collection of short stories about Pakistan that center around an old feudal landowner - a kind of dying class in Pakistan, it seems - and the many people tied to him. The stories stand independently, some short and some very long, but they have overlapping characters who may appear for one sentence in one story and then reappear a few stories ...more
Susan
These eight marvelous short stories give the reader an idea of Pakistan's society at all levels. A common thread is a wealthy landowner named K.K. Harouni, and each of the stories describes Pakistan's complicated feudal system from the perspective of the characters-- Harouni's friends and acquaintances, his subordinates, and his relatives. Sadly, women and the poor suffer in this tiered society regardless of their class, and many have a sense of resignation that their circumstance and tragedies ...more
Linda
I am in love. Unbelievable book, this. The characters will stay with me for a long time. And such an interesting format.
I was so sorry to finish the book and leave the world woven within.
Ron
This is not the Pakistan of the news headlines, bombings, assassination, political strife, extremism. Instead these interrelated stories provide a Dickensian portrayal of lives lived at nearly every level of social strata - wealthy landowners, their descendants, and those who rely on them for their livelihood. Like Dickens, there is as much grief and sorrow as joy in most of these lives, as fortunes rise and then often fall. Some readers here complain that the moral center of the stories is ambi ...more
THE
Thwarted again...another highly praised volume of stories, named National Book Award finalist for 2009, defies my great expectations by crashing with the dullest of thuds. Daniyal Mueenuddin, a Pakistani American with the best of credentials, including a Yale Law degree, published works in the New Yorker and Granta, and extensive life experience among Midwestern Americans and rural Pakistanis, provides a compendium of stories loosely tied to the patriarchal figure of K. K. Harouni, a wealthy fic ...more
Yusra Zainab Laghari
As it comes from a Pakistani writer, I immediately reached for this book which many people claim to be the best fiction ever written about Pakistan.

In Other Rooms,Other Wonders is a collection of eight short stories. Mueenuddin interlaces these eight stories, linking them to the household of a wealthy and self-satisfied landowner named K.K. Harouni.

Mueenuddin has tried to reveal the complexities of Pakistani class and culture and I felt that Mueenuddin's Pakistan is ONLY dark, depressing and ble
...more
Susan Robin
This was a National Book Award Finalist, book of eight short somewhat interwoven short stories which take place in feudal landowner/servants structure in Pakistan in the 1980-90 time period. The author and his family for years before him run a farm in the southern Punjab part of Pakistan. But he left Lahore when he was 13 and attended boarding school in the US, followed by college at Dartmouth. He returned to Pakistan for a few years after college and stayed long enough to understanding the rapi ...more
Angela
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is an easily flowing collection of short stories in which the characters are linked somehow to the estate of K. K. Harouni, a powerful landowner. Set in Islamabad and rural Pakistan, the collection endeavors to give a larger picture of the workings of Pakistani life, describing everyone from Harouni himself to his poorest servant. Mueenuddin does well at giving us a taste of the flavor and structure of Pakistani life. Surprisingly, the two stories I found most compe ...more
Paige
Jul 06, 2012 Paige rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: actors who are portraying a depressed person
Recommended to Paige by: nobody, thank god
It's hard for me to give this book a rating in stars.

I didn't dislike the writing. I don't think it's ~zomg beautiful~ or Pultizer or National Book Award material, but I often have some beef with those kinds of "big" awards anyway (even if I am sometimes drawn to them). I liked the writing style perfectly well, actually.

I just have an issue with the vast majority of short stories being depressing. This book certainly lives up to that stereotype, as every single story is plenty depressing--and th
...more
Alan
Sep 16, 2009 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alan by: www.theshortreview.com
I was impressed with the writing and the author's control, his ability to elicit sympathy for the unsympathetic and his insight into disguised self interest, family bonds and the class system of the corner of Pakistan he writes about. In many ways this could have been 18th century England with the land owning classes and their heirarchy of servants, the cook that always gets to sleep with the new maid, the mistress installed in a 'flat' on the estate, the letters of introduction required. Three ...more
Sayantan Ghosh
Mueenuddin's success lies in the fact that he unassumingly creates a picture of contemporary Pakistan that is at once misogynistic and ravenous, yet compassionate and tolerant. Through a series of interlinked stories, he takes us into the drawing rooms, servant quarters, and private bedrooms of the characters, catching them unaware during their most intimate moments. His language is so arresting that sometimes I had to pinch myself to believe that this was his first published book. He awes his r ...more
Neha
Being a Punjabi Indian, a Punjabi in Pakistan seems more familiar to me than any Indian from other parts of India. The distinct culture, social hierarchy, land economics, politics, women and families, are very similar to the Indian part of Punjab. The opening lines of the book itself resonates with what I have grown up with – Zar, Zoru aur Zameen - three root causes for every crime.

The stories are based on the rich families of Pakistani Punjabis owning thousands of acres, multiple houses in cit
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
World fiction is popular these days, and I love it as much as anyone (probably more than most), but in our enthusiasm for exotic settings, we shouldn't be blinded to the importance of strong plotting and characterization either. Unfortunately, this is a book that lacks those strengths.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is a group of eight loosely-connected (and non-chronological) short stories set in Pakistan, about people all connected in one way or another with a wealthy Pakistani family. The conne
...more
Abeer Hoque
Mr. Mueenuddin's writing is outstanding. The settings for each of the stories in "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders" are particular and strange and beautiful. His characters range from maids to mistresses and much more in between, and he has a gift for describing the nuances of relationships, especially the transparent beginnings. [The book won won the regional prize for Best First Book of the 2010 Commonwealth Awards, though not the overall prize, although it had a finer title than any other nomine ...more
Peter
Having grown up in Pakistan, I have always had a soft spot for fiction about the Indian subcontinent. But until this book, my favorite of these authors wrote, by and large, about India. This is hardly an impediment to the quantity or quality of that literature, as in recent times the scope of Indian fiction has grown as wide as the Indian diaspora; but it is rare to encounter a first-rate book of fiction about Pakistan. It is also noteworthy that Mueenuddin has made his mark with short stories, ...more
SilverRaindrops

Mueenuddin's book consists of several short stories that offer a look at the people inside and around a Pakistani family. K.K. Harouni lives in Lahore and owns lands away from the big city. He's got a weird family, servants and associates, and all this serves to broaden Mueenuddin's perspective. There is a total of eight short stories in this book, and the reader can visit a lot of places and social classes over the course of the book. There is also a sense of progress within the stories, but th
...more
Jon Stout
These stories of men and women in Pakistan are interesting in several dimensions. Starting off with the dimension of socio-economic grandeur, the stories range from village life with a jamindar or landowner (familiar territory to me) to the other extreme of jet set wealth and sophistication (not so familiar to me), all in a Pakistani context. The scenes of a decadent wealthy elite, doing drugs and hobnobbing in Paris, are as surprising to me as they would be to any villager. I have seen the educ ...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
Set in Punjab, the eight linked stories in this excellent book follow the lives of the rich and powerful Harouni family and its employees: managers, drivers, gardeners, cooks, servants.

The patriarch, KK Harouni, of the feudal landowning class, owns a farm in Dunyapur and a mansion in Lahore. In the title story, we meet him in the final years of his life, living mostly in Lahore, apart from his estranged wife, having surrendered the management of his farm to the corrupt Chaudrey Jaglani. When Hus
...more
Empress5150
I was hoping for a lot more out of this series of short stories as both the majority of reviews I've read said they were wonderful and it was one of the last books my stepmother read before she died.

My stepmother's friend (whom I need to get this book back to as it belongs to her) wrote a brief note that is on a stickee inside the book. It reads, "I loved reading this book. It gives us more insight into another culture, which we have if we meddle there!"

The stories were interesting enough; set i
...more
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Daniyal Mueenuddin was brought up in Lahore, Pakistan and Elroy, Wisconsin. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale Law School, his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, and The Best American Short Stories 2008, selected by Salman Rushdie. For a number of years he practiced law in New York. He now lives on a farm in Pakistan's southern Punjab.
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