Review: The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam

Posted August 17, 2012 by Heather in Book Reviews / 12 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Good Muslim by Tahmima AnamThe Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
Published by Harper on 2011
Genres: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

Goodreads | Amazon

In the dying days of a brutal civil war, Sohail Haque stumbles upon an abandoned building. Inside he finds a young woman whose story will haunt him for a lifetime to come...

Almost a decade later, Sohail's sister, Maya, returns home after a long absence to find her beloved brother transformed. While Maya has stuck to her revolutionary ideals, Sohail has shunned his old life to become a charismatic religious leader. And when Sohail decides to send his son to a madrasa, the conflict between brother and sister comes to a devastating climax. Set in Bangladesh at a time when religious fundamentalism is on the rise, The Good Muslim is an epic story about faith, family, and the long shadow of war.

(from the inside flap)

The Good Muslim is the sequel to Tahmima Anam’s A Golden Age, and the second book in what will eventually be a trilogy about Anam’s home country of Bangladesh. With this novel Anam continues the story of the Haque family, this time from Maya’s perspective.

In The Good Muslim, it has been about a decade since the war ended and Bangladesh gained its independence. A lot has happened in the time between December of 1971 and February of 1984, and Bangladesh is now being ruled by a dictator. Sohail has become a devout Muslim while Maya has tried to stay true to who she was during the revolution in 1971. The story moves back and forth between the 1970s and 1980s in order to show what the members of the Haque family have been doing and how they have changed since the end of the war. The main part of the story tells of Maya’s attempt to understand her brother’s devotion to Islam, and her attempt to change him back to the way he was before and during the war.

With this book, readers learn what it is like for a newly independent country to have to put itself back together and move forward after war. Even after a decade the people of Bangladesh are still dealing with the effects, both politically and personally. Lots of things have changed, in good ways and bad. In the Haque family there has been a marriage, a birth, a death, a religious transformation, and the rending of close family ties. Their story continues to be both hopeful and heartbreaking.

I didn’t know that The Good Muslim is the second book of a trilogy when I accepted it for review, and I ended up reading it before I read A Golden Age. I ordered A Golden Age as soon as I realized that I should have read it first, and I’m glad I did. Although The Good Muslim is a good book, it was hard for me to sympathize with Maya and Sohail, and I was not really pulled into the story. Then I read A Golden Age, and everything made more sense. I wish I had read them in order. I feel like Sohail and Maya arenn’t fleshed out as well in this book, and I didn’t get a good sense of the reasons behind their actions and their words. I just didn’t feel as close to the Haque family this time around. If read as a stand-alone novel, The Good Muslim is about half as good as A Golden Age. Read together, they make for a very good story.

I think The Good Muslim is just as well written as A Golden Age, although I think the storyline isn’t as tight and a few of the characters aren’t as sympathetic. I highly recommend reading them in order–I think I would have enjoyed this book much more had I done that.

I recommend this book to anyone who has read the first book in the trilogy. I recommend both books to anyone who would like to learn more about Bangladesh’s history and to anyone who likes reading good historical fiction.

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  • This sounds great! I think I’ll have to read The Golden Age first, though. The cover of The Good Muslim is so, so pretty, though! Definitely one I’d want to buy so I could admire it on my bookshelf.

    • Both the hardcover and paperback are pretty–the cover for the paperback looks a lot like the cover for A Golden Age.

      You should definitely read A Golden Age first.

  • Thanks for being a part of this tour!

  • I think I’m going to give A Golden Age a try. I love learning about other countries. Great review.

    • I think you’d really like it. Thanks, Vasilly!

  • I love multi-cultural fiction, and this sounds interesting to me. I am adding A Golden Age to my list.

  • I love the review. I have to say that I’ve become meticulous about reading series books in order for the very same reasons you mention. It is so difficult to get the right feel for the story when you take them out of order.

    • I’m usually meticulous about it, too, but I had no idea this wasn’t a standalone book until I started reading it. Then I wasn’t sure I could stop and read the first one within the deadline I had. Turns out I could have, but I didn’t want to take a chance.

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  • I have had this book on my shelf for a while. I need to get around to it. great review!