The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
Finished reading on April 26th, 2015
This book continues the story that began in “A Golden Age” with the Bangladesh Liberation War and follows Maya, Rehana and Sohail Haque.
The story is presented in two timelines – one starts in 1982, when Maya, Rehana’s daughter returns home after having been away for seven years and working as a country doctor. The other is earlier, starting from the end of the war when Rehana’s son Sohail returns home from war.
Mostly everything is seen from the point of view of Maya – she returns to a home and family that have changed. Her brother has become a religious leader and lives in a hut on top of his mother’s bungalow. He has a son, Zaid, whose mother has just died a few days before Maya returns.
From the beginning there are several tales to be followed here. The timeline from just after the war that is weaved between the later 1980s one, follows how Sohail changes and becomes the man that Maya meets on her return and also gives an idea why she had left in the first place. The second timeline shows more of the everyday life of Maya and her mother and Zaid.
The book brings out several problems -one of them being how much should a relative influence the upbringing of a child that isn’t their own – as Maya is trying to give Zaid some education and tries to convince Sohail to put the kid into a school, but Sohail has his own plans for him.
The other and maybe a greater theme is a person finding religion for himself – we see how Sohail has changed and how Maya has tried to cope with it, and how she doesn’t understand why he changed and what had happened to him. We only find out later on something more about what happened to Sohail, and what might have pushed him to throw himself into religion, whether that’s enough or not, you can decide for yourself.
There are some troubling topics raised – mostly in violence against women who were taken captive during the war and used by the soldiers, and what happens to the women after the war is over.
It isn’t a happy read, but it does give a glimpse into a different kind of world.