1 of 15: “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Finished on Friday, blogging for Saturday 4/16, this is the first of 15 books I hope to read over the next 15 days, or 15/15/15 for short. Post a comment on what you read, and a link if you have it.

Hailed by many as one of the best books of last year (Publishers Weekly, TIME, New Statesman, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, and The Economist), Daniyal Mueenuddin’s short story collection, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, had a long wait at the library. I was surprised when it didn’t make the short list for this year’s Morning News Tournament of Books. Having read it, I suspect it was excluded because it was tonally similar to one of the other contenders, Wells Towers’ Everything Ravaged Everything Burned, which I read and admired, though can’t say I enjoyed. I feel similarly about this book.

Mueenuddin has written a collection of slightly linked short stories, each connecting in some way to the Harouni family in Pakistan. The stories focus on a wide range of characters: the wealthy Harounis, friends of theirs, servants of theirs, and others. Without exception the stories are beautifully written, with evocative language and complex characters.

That winter she had been in London for a wedding, not a close friend but the wedding of the season, the daughter of some bureaucrat who made a crooked pile on the privatization of a steel mill and couldn’t return to Pakistan because of cases against him in the National Accounyability Bureau–”nabbed,” as they called it, almost a mark of distinction. Late at night, after the mehndi, riding through London in someone’s hilarious car, she’d been in a bad accident. She woke at down in the hospital, severely concussed, and watched a rare snowfall from her bed, a thin drift on the sill, perceptibly gathering as the large flakes settled out of the gray first light and pressed against the window. She couldn’t remember anything at first, where she was, why she was there, sleeping all through the day, until it began to come back, but changed, the experiences of another person.

Also without exception, they are filled with tragedy and human cruelty, often with corruption mixed in as well. Any story that begins happily will take a turn. Most often, the turn occurs when one person acts wrongly toward another. The stories are an intricate portrait of a country in transition from feudalism to modernism. The growing pains are wrenching. I appreciate having read about Pakistan and spent some time in the minds of others, but am glad to be finished with the book. The wonders of the title are all too fleeting in the lives of the book’s characters.

ETA: If you don’t already, visit today’s Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, a wonderful gathering of readers.

11 Responses to “1 of 15: “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” by Daniyal Mueenuddin”

  1. Farheen Says:

    It was a pleasant surprise seeing Danyal Mueenuddin’s book as your first choice! I wonder if you’ve read books by Kamila Shamsie, another Pakistani author, who will provide you with a different perspective of the county and its people. In fact, the book I read is her very first novel, In the City by the Sea (please check out the link below for my first book).
    This challenge is proving to be a lot of fun. Even my husband has become very involved. Unfortunately for me, I have no graphic novels except ‘V for Vendetta’ which I read ages ago. Also, I am looking forward to being introduced to new authors through this challenge.
    Happy reading!


  2. SFP Says:

    The title of this one runs into Everything Ravaged in my mind as well; in fact, I can’t remember which one it was I saw on the library shelves. Still, I’m interested since they’re short stories. But not for this project. Reading stories slows me down ever so much.

    Here’s my link:

  3. Inquirer Says:

    1 of 15 … The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Oh, I liked this little book. I liked the writing. I liked the characters. I might even read it again and take more time with it.


  4. Sherry Says:

    I read An Expert in Murder by NIcola Upson, as you may have noticd when you checked out the Saturday Review. It’s about a fictional Josephine Tey becoming involved in murder at the theater.


  5. Jessica Snell Says:

    I read “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, which I’ve been wanting to get through for forever. Thanks for the push towards plowing through my TBR pile!


  6. Kate Says:

    Not quite a book, but I read a Joyce Carol Oates short story from the New Yorker. “I.D.” at


    was a compelling short story, which is pretty much how I like Oates. I did find her teenage character familiar after reading Miles from Nowhere, and Andromeda Klein, and The White Darkness. Given that Oates has used this type of character in the past, it’s tough to see who owes what to who, but I think at this point it’s a definite type. The main character is a teenage girl with injury/bad eye/bad hearing/troubles with reality. She is taken out of school to ID a woman’s body who may or may not have been her mother. Certainly worth reading.

    And baby crying, that’s my fiction review of the day!

  7. girldetective Says:

    Kate, it sounds also like she’s a female counterpart to Lowboy. The wounded protagonist trying to find herself/her birthright sounds very archetypal to me, though perhaps turning the Joseph Campbell hero idea on its head by making it a heroine. The handicapped hero/ine–definitely sounds like there’s a paper in that.

  8. girldetective Says:

    SFP, Everything Ravaged is yellow, and that’s how I remember them, but they were similiar in style and while both were short, they didn’t feel particularly “fast” to me.

  9. ChristineMM Says:

    My book for day 1 is “Sweater Quest” a nonfiction book about knitting which I blogged about here:


    (I’m all squared away on the dates and the way to leave comments now. Thanks!)

  10. Amy Says:

    I took the easy road for day 1, and read a quick graphic novel: http://www.newcenturyreading.com/2010/04/the-1515-projectday-1.html

  11. Kate Says:

    That’s too funny, GD, because I almost included Lowboy on my list. I decided that reference might be too extreme–she’s certainly more with it than Lowboy, and the story isn’t as jagged as that.

    Ahh. Another paper. I have five or six abstracts (every time I have a paper idea, I write an abstract so I can keep moving ahead on my current project). I’ll just have to add this one!