cover image A Small Fortune

A Small Fortune

Rosie Dastgir. Riverhead, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59448-810-8

Harris, a likable, middle-aged Pakistani émigré living in the North of England, immediately comes to life in the opening pages of this charming debut novel, as does his daughter, Alia. Unbeknownst to her father, who is separated from Alia’s British mother, Alia has dropped out of med school in London and is living with her English boyfriend. Harris’s shock at learning the truth about Alia’s circumstances, among other emotional setbacks, creates a rift between the two that takes the rest of the novel to mend. As vividly as the book begins, however, the pace drags as members of their extended family, both in England and Pakistan, enter the narrative. While the book’s strength relies on Dastgir’s insightful ability to knit together distinct yet interdependent lives—and while getting acquainted with each individual does feel worthwhile—the energy of the narrative too often slows amid stilted dialogue and multiple versions of emotional indecision. Finally, when Rashid, a close family friend, gets mixed up with radical Islamists, the plot veers toward the predictable. An absorbing conclusion reveals Dastgir’s talent, heart, and clear knack for pulling it all together. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta. (June)