Nadeem Aslam, Author . Knopf $25 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4242-5

In this poignant, lushly written novel, Aslam (Season of the Rainbirds ) explores the interwoven lives of Pakistani immigrants in an English town they have rechristened Dasht-e-Tanhaii, "the Wilderness of Solitude" or "the Desert of Loneliness." The disappearance of Jugnu and Chanda, lovers who broke Islamic law to live in sin, throws the small community into upheaval. The police arrest Chanda's brothers, whom they believe murdered the couple to avenge their family's shame. Meanwhile, Jugnu's brother, Shamas, contemplates the loss, occasionally clashing with his wife, Kaukab, a devout Muslim who overtly disapproved of the relationship. Aslam depicts an insular ex-pat Pakistani community fighting to preserve its cultural heritage and losing the battle to its Western-born children—often quite violently. At the heart of the turmoil is sexual freedom, and Aslam illustrates the many ways women's lives are restricted and romantic love is denied in the name of religion. At times, Aslam's critique grows didactic, as when he saddles his characters with long stretches of wooden, philosophical dialogue. But in Kaukab, the lonely, sympathetic believer who inadvertently alienated her own children, Aslam personifies the conflicts of acculturation, crafting a truthful story that resists easy conclusions. (May 8)

Reviewed on: 03/07/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
Paperback - 379 pages - 978-1-4000-7697-0
Hardcover - 369 pages - 978-0-571-22180-6
Open Ebook - 267 pages - 978-0-307-42678-9
Paperback - 369 pages - 978-0-571-22181-3
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-571-31329-7
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