Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: American Dervish by Ayad Aktar

Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

**2012 Debut Adult Fiction Author**

Hayat is a Pakistani-American coming from a wealthy, dysfunctional family living in the outskirts of Milwaukee. His mother and father have become very americanized, both have shunned the Qur’an and the community. His parent’s marriage is fragile; his mother warns Hayat against Muslim men and wants him to be nothing like his father. His mother is depressed and lonely; she holds little details from Hayat about his father’s indiscretions. When his mother’s best friend comes to live with them from India, Hayat is immediately infatuated with her. While Mina was giving birth to her son, her husband divorced her, causing her parents great shame. Mina is distraught to be told her son would have to be given to her husband upon his seventh birthday. She escapes to America, hoping for a better life and security for her son. When Mina comes into the household, Hayat is relieved to have a change in atmosphere. He is immediately fascinated with her faith, which she openly begins to teach him. Hayat immerses himself in these teachings, but has a lot to learn about life and literal interpretations.

American Dervish is a captivating read, an amazing debut novel. Hayat is an innocent boy who quickly gets caught up in the beauty of faith, and the ugliness of stereotypes. For the first time in his life, Hayat is showered with attention by someone other than his mother. He hangs on Mina’s every word, and hopes that nothing will come between them. He does everything in his power to stay golden in her eyes. When Hayat realizes that Mina’s attention is divided by a Jewish suitor, Hayat is distressed. What comes next is a surprise, even for Hayat.

Akhtar does not shy away from a difficult topic. There is great comfort that comes from faith, but when literal interpretations begin to cloud ones thoughts, it can be devastating. The book opens in 1990, when Hayat is in college, he begins to reflect on his past. Hayat may not be proud of his past, but he was young, naïve and misguided. Akhtar warns of the dangers that come from being narrow-minded. Tunnel vision can be devastating.

Hayat’s parents do not have likeable personalities, but their intention to give their son a better life is commendable. They want nothing but the best for Hayat however, instead of guiding him in the right direction they want nothing to do with his Qur’an curiosities. Both of his parents seem to be lost, struggling to find their place in this new world. Hayat is struggling to gain acceptance, and wants to be seen. American Dervish is an amazing coming-of-age novel that readers will love. Akhtar presents characters who are trying to make sense of the new world, trying to understand the old world, characters who are lost in the shuffle. The writing is compelling, beautiful and readable. The story is engaging and engrossing. Highly recommended!

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  1. I would have actually been interested in reading more about Hayat's life when he was older (like where it started) and finding out how his childhood affected him as he was older!

    1. I would like to know more about him as a teenager-young adult. I wonder if he found a middle ground, or simply lost his faith.

  2. I am hoping to win a copy of this book from several giveaways I entered. Sounds like a very revealing novel.

  3. I've been seeing this one all over the place lately, it sounds truly fantastic! It's not one I would typically pick up, but a good story is a good story even if it doesn't have any paranormal elements in it ;-) Wonderful review as usual Jennifer!

  4. This is one that I need to read very soon. I have read so many interesting perspectives on it, and your review has definitely added to the curiosity factor. Great thoughts on this one today. I can't wait to get to it!

  5. Sounds good. I'm a sucker for immigrant stories since both of my parents immigrated to the US in the 70s.

  6. I've been wondering about this one. I wonder how they play out Mina and her divided attention, and Hayat's curiosity with a faith his parents want nothing to do with. Sounds fascinating.

  7. Wow this book sounds truly wonderful!

  8. Oh man, I've got to get to this one soon!

  9. Wow!! you rock this review my dear!! Now I totally want to read it even though is not really my genre =P

    great review! muah!

    Happy reading!
    Dazzling Reads

  10. I have seen so many great reviews for this book. I haven't been drawn to read it but all these great reviews have me rethinking it.

  11. At a first glance, this doesn't sound like my kind of book at all but oh my gosh, do you EVER make it sounds like such an amazing read! I love books with serious and touching themes like this one so I'm glad that I found your review!

    Amazing review as always, Mrs. Q! You sure know how to write a convincing review! ;) <3