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In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  5,430 ratings  ·  741 reviews
A major literary debut that explores class, culture, power, and desire among the ruling and servant classes of Pakistan.

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 fami
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published January 5th 2009 by W. W. Norton
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3.75  · 
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 ·  5,430 ratings  ·  741 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
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
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 glancingly represented in 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 richer, ...more
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2016
This collection of stories is insightful and by turns luminous and bleak. Mueenuddin takes the stories of a wide range of people, from poor servants to the landed rich, to form a cross section of Pakistani society, the common thread being their relationship to an old aristocratic land-owner and his family. It is full of poetic detail and Mueenuddin's characters are complex, fully realised and sympathetic, but the overall picture is of a divided society in which very few stories have happy ending ...more
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
Feb 17, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Anum Shaharyar
The first time I read this book a few years ago, I hated it with a passion. I found it (alternatively) boring, infuriating, condescending or cynical. “What did you just make me read?” I complained to my best friend, who loved this book and was in turn amused and horrified by my vehement dislike of it.

“Read it again!” she likes to say, whenever I hate a book she loves. Because we both have such similar taste in books, it takes a while for us to accept the reality of our conflicting opinions about
I'm quite ambiguous about this book. Stylistically, I liked it. The stories engaged me and I found them easy to read. But I kept wondering if they were truly representing life in Pakistan.

The eight stories concern the rich and the poor. In many instances, we see the interaction between the two classes and the poor seem to always get screwed in some fashion. The most likeable characters for me were the two American women - one who initially thought she wanted to marry the pleasant, young, rich P
Mar 16, 2009 rated it liked it
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.

Yes, the author knows what he's talking about. As a member of the Pakistani jet set, the son of an American mother and a Pakistani father, and a graduate of Dartmouth and Yale, he is well-qualified to write about the gossipy failings and foibles
Greg Zimmerman
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of the best set of short stories I have read. Well crafted and very readable.
Pakistan is portrayed rather bleakly. The rich seem either corrupt, lazy or greedy. Inherited wealth seem to be either squandered or milked by sycophants. The poor are really poor. All people seem to be looking for a way to make easy money. There are a lot of traditions, meanness and small mindedness.
The characters come from different classes, ages, sexes, fortunes. They are well constructed and generally p
Jul 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
There's a wonderful fable-like quality to these stories glimpsing the interstices of Pakistan--spaces between the rich and the poor, the feudal land-owning class and the rising industrialists, the old and the young, the spiritual and the corporeal... The stories are loosely tied together by the wealthy K.K. Harouni and his large business empire which seems about to crumble with his impending death. Mueenuddin weaves a sincere sense of place, as well as a fascinating look at the dynamics between ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
May 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 14, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Murphy
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nice, rounded, fully realised stories... you do not feel cheated.

The interlinked narratives evoke the lives of peasants and landlords from multiple perspectives, generating a solid sense of place and character. Overall effect is better than a novel because the stories reduce the tediousness a novel can most-likely fall into.

Good stuff.
Mar 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alan by:
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
Aug 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
After a bit of a shaky start, this book and I managed to get on reasonably well together in the end. It's a collection of loosely connected short stories (some repeating character and events) that paint a picture of life in Pakistan. Not being an expert, I'm not sure if it's an accurate picture, but it focuses on both the poor and the wealthy and the way their lives both interact and are completely different from one another.

I found the first two or three stories rather shallow and the character
Tariq Mahmood
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pakistan
Absolutely loved all stories which are somewhat loosely connected. My favourite is Nawabdin electrician's though, his resoluteness and spartan lifestyle signifies the great Pakistani Punjabi stereotype. I also immensely enjoyed the interaction of the rich and affluent class with the ordinary as it is a game still played on a daily basis. Daniyal has indeed got a keen sense to empathise with the plight of the poor and the destitute. Can't wait for his next book.
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book of linked stories. I'm usually no fan of short stories but these have enough commonalities that it feels like a novel. The stories are beautifully written and give a picture of life in contemporary Pakistan - both rural and urban - from the viewpoint of various social classes. The author has lived in both Pakistan and the U.S. and currently lives on his family farm in Pakistan. I strongly recommend this book!
Elliott Turner
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I really enjoyed this collection, even if, at about the halfway point, the stories seem to revolve around women who try to climb socially by marrying rich Pakistani men. On the one hand, this probably happens and the stories are well constructed enough. It's also cool to see a male author write stories from a female POV. On the other hand, this recurrent theme could easily be flipped and be more interesting: what if, for example, a skanky Pakistani rich playboy tried to marry a nice, ...more
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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
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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.