From the award-winning author of A Golden Age, Tahmima Anam, comes another masterpiece, The Good Muslim, the story after the war. A story of survival, of hiding and never letting the past go.
Read more on Book Review: A Golden Age
The Good Muslim follows the story of Haque family after the war, when in an abandoned building, Sohail Haque comes across a woman, shattered and ripped to pieces, showing the signs of war, gang rape, torture and seeds of hatred in her womb. A woman who will haunt Sohail for the rest of her life.
After a decade, Maya returns home to Dhaka to find his brother converted and totally engrossed into religion and her mother who has lost the spark of her revolutionary days. While Maya has stuck to her revolutionary ideals, Sohail has now burnt all his books that once gave him inspiration, and has joined Tablighi Jamaat movement, building a new life in it. Maya blames everything on Silvi, who is Sohail’s wife. Silvi, who before the war was married to a soldier, who lost his life during Liberation of Bangladesh and Silvi found solace in The Book. But Rehana defends her son, saying that he is just trying to heal his wounds of war, running away from shadows of people who were killed and destroyed in front of him. Maya also comes across Sohail’s son Zaid, who is being raised as a Good Muslim, not going to school but a traditional Madrassa, not in a world of books but in the world of sermons and The One God. And ignorance towards his upbringing, turning him into a liar and a thief.
The Good Muslim is a like a historical sweep that ranges from Liberation of Bangladesh to back to the central characters, Rehana, Sohail and Maya who are now trying to get back to their normal lives. But after a ravaged season of war, only Maya can live with her past. Both Rehana and Sohail have moved on, leaving Maya all alone to relive the glorious and adventurous days of the past, which in turn make her more frustrated.
The ideological and core center of The Good Muslim lies between the conflict of Sohail and Maya, both trying to be the Good Muslim in their own way. Maya, giving up surgery and traveling to remote nooks and corners of Bangladesh, helping women deliver babies and even aborting the unwanted seeds of war, fighting for the rights of women, even at the risk of her life. Sohail, on the other hand, embracing a more cultish side of the religion, burning of books, giving up on the pre-war life, music, friends and liberal values that once made him fight for his country. At the end of the day, Maya realizes too late that his brother is only trying to heal his wounds via these sermons, only trying to survive the psychological ill-effects the war has left him with. She remembers her mother’s words; That he is only trying to find solace through The Book, he is still the same.
The Good Muslim is a book that will introduce you to a life of people after the war. Some of them bask in the glory of those days, some try to run away from the hideous memories of it. In the story of The Good Muslim, you come across both types of characters. As compared to A Golden Age, The Good Muslim may prove to be a little slow to read, a bit of action missing. But then it is a book full of emotions and after effects of the war, something that will attract you towards it. The story of The Good Muslim is pretty strong and will keep you engaged, and Maya’s character will take a place in your heart. Eventually, when you read the book, you will miss the older Sohail and won’t even like the new version of Sohail, but at the end of the book, you will embrace him more warmly than Maya.
Both Sohail and Maya are dealing with the devils of their past. Maya, who never discusses why she came back so suddenly, indulges one her friends into the secret that she convinced pregnant women to take a bath in the village pond, making way for consequences that turned out to be dire for both of them. Maya tries to fight for her friend, but then gives up reluctantly when she realizes that the New Bangladesh is something different, being run by a dictator. She comes back home and even joins a newspaper, sharing her views on the new political situation of Bangladesh, but doesn’t find solace in that, as her real piece lies with Sohail only, who she feels has abandoned her just like that for religion. Thamima Anam has done a wonderful job sharing both sides of the same coin via this brother and sister relationship.
All in all, The Good Muslim is a pretty great book, something that you can devour into. Now looking forward to the last book in the series, The Bones of Grace.