The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
Tahmima Anam continues her outstanding Bengal Trilogy, which began with A Golden Age, her glowing 2008 debut that propelled Anam into a privileged literary circle filled with international accolades. From Rehana Haque, the protagonist mother in Age, Anam shifts her focus to the grown Haque children in her second book which hits U.S. shelves in just a couple of weeks.
For the first time since the Bangladesh war of independence finally ended, Rehana, her son Sohail, and daughter Maya are all under the same roof … and yet their physical reunion is overshadowed by emotional disconnection. Sohail’s wife has just passed away when Maya returns home, leaving behind shocking violence in the small village where she was a doctor for several years. Maya is tired and spent, having witnessed the too-often subjugation of women just for being women.
Maya can’t comprehend Sohail’s new religious fervor since his return from the war, his reinvention as a revered Muslim leader, nor his unbending rules and expectations in the name of a god that Maya can’t accept as absolute. Sohail’s devotion to his faith leaves him blind to his utterly neglected son – a thin young boy, unwashed, clothed in tatters, thieving, lying, and yet the only request he voices regularly is to be able to go to school. Bypassing her brother’s objections, Maya tries to at least provide her nephew with basic literacy, but her attempts at enlightenment have tragic consequences.
As Bangladesh celebrates 40 years of independent country-hood, Anam’s intimate, vivid new title appears just in time as both testimony of endured brutality, and a reminder of the difficult choices survivors faced once the violence finally subsided. That survival always comes with a price: Sohail’s search for redemption takes him in one extreme direction, while Maya chooses a very different path. And Rehana – her silences more telling perhaps than her words can be – watches as her children’s lives diverge further and further from one another, and eventually from hers as well.