Monday, May 20, 2013

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

The blurb:

His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world's pulse.  How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation - and exceeds it.  The astonishing and riveting tale of a man's journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured all over "rising Asia."  The novel follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on the most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water.  Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

An astonishing slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval,  How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious.  It brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts, and creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

Mohsin Hamid's How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is an unexpected treat.  I was drawn to the title and had somehow expected it to be set in China or Korea.  My fault - I should have realized that it would be in South Asia. 

The book is unusual in that it's written in the second person with such skill. We follow the story of a young rural boy whose luck and skill enable him to make fortunate choices.  It starts from his gender and birth order.   His less fortunate elder brother is pulled out of school to work as a house painter and his older sister is married instead of able to return to school.  The boy makes full use of his education.  He studies full time, works part time, learns how to sell, and with each new phase, he advances.  Written as a self help book of sorts, the book captures a detached and humorous tone - keeps 

The boy falls in love with a beautiful, spirited and ambitious young girl.   The young girl leads an equally charmed life  where her beauty, sacrifices, and skills bring her unexpected rewards. 

While I enjoyed reading about the rise in their respective fortunes, what I most enjoyed about How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia was seeing how the lives of the young girl and boy would intertwine.  

ISBN  1594487294 Hardcover $26
Riverhead Hardcover, 1st edition.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program and the publisher.

About the Author:
Moshin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, won the Betty Trask Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.  His second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a bestseller in the United States and abroad, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.  Hamid, who contributes to Time, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, among others, lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

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