The book opens in an English town of Dasht-e-Tanhaii. From the name of it, it sounds more like a fictitious land than reality. It is but a large community of Pakistani migrants who have rechristened their new home Dasht-e-Tanhaii: The Wilderness of Loneliness or The Desert of Solitude.
As a ex-literature student I thoroughly loved this book. After Kamila Shamsie’s Kartography Nadeem Aslam’s book, Map of Lost Lovers has left me spellbound. It was a treat to read, I took time to flip the pages, letting the magic transcend me to a whole new world. Very few books have left me in awe of the title long after I have finished reading it, this is surely one of them.
Aslam’s book has a lot of remarkable characters who make this book such an enjoyable read; Jugnu’s brother, Shamas, a gentle, liberal man with no time for the orthodox form of Islam to which so many in his community cling; Shamas’s sons and daughter, who are a part of the generation that has try and forge a link between the Pakistani and British parts of their lives challenged by anger or and conflicting emotions threatening to pull them. Suraya, who was “mistakenly” divorced by her husband in Pakistan while he was in a drunken rage, and now (as per her religion: Islamic) she has to find someone else to marry and divorce her before she can return to her former husband and their son.
This is just the kind of book that is best savored bit by bit; celebrating page by page, letting the magic take over. The language is beautiful and the story is compelling, will leave you gripped till the very end.
Hearts crack and break in this powerful novel, and the reader’s heart aches along with them. Lovers are separated or lose each other. One couple, Tugnu and Chanda have disappeared and are presumed murdered by Chanda’s brothers – a honour killing. It’s by far one of my favorite books of all time. Aslam captures community life outside of India/Pakistan with a mix of poetry and harsh reality beautifully.
Pick this up purely because it is an exceptional read and such a book is hard to come by.
My rating 4.5/5
This review is for Random House India; however the opinions expressed here are my own.