STARRED REVIEW
May 15, 2018

Swept away by a family’s history

By Arif Anwar
Review by

In his debut novel, Arif Anwar gathers stories in the manner that wind and waves build in a massive storm. The central character, Shahryar, not only survives the devastating 1970 Bhola cyclone in East Pakistan but also faces his family’s history leading up to that catastrophic event. Armed with talismans from the past, he confronts his uncertain future with dignity and ferocity. With the ethos of A Long Way Home (upon which the movie Lion is based) and the epic quality of The Kite Runner, The Storm provokes and inspires.

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In his debut novel, Arif Anwar gathers stories in the manner that wind and waves build in a massive storm. The central character, Shahryar, not only survives the devastating 1970 Bhola cyclone in East Pakistan but also faces his family’s history leading up to that catastrophic event. Armed with talismans from the past, he confronts his uncertain future with dignity and ferocity. With the ethos of A Long Way Home (upon which the movie Lion is based) and the epic quality of The Kite Runner, The Storm provokes and inspires.

With no job prospect and his American visa about to run out, Shar may not be able to remain in the country with his American-born daughter. He meets an immigration lawyer who promises to help. This leads Shar toward legal and political risks not unlike those faced by his family in Bangladesh and India when India gained its independence in 1946.

Anwar constructs his novel like a cyclone, beginning at the onset of the 1970 storm, leaping forward to Shar in 2004 and then catapulting back to 1946 Calcutta. Laced with symbols and mysterious mementos—like a sash left by a Japanese soldier that is later discovered by a studious Hindu girl, and a fishing boat painted with eyes—chapters swell to suspenseful endings that dovetail with each other.

Anwar describes his settings in poetic detail, and readers will wish the dialogue were as well wrought: “The valley is flooded with the light of the dying sun, cradled by the jagged outlines of the Arakan Yomas and the Irrawaddy’s shimmering curves, studded with countless temples both spired and blunt-topped.” From visa troubles and Hindu-Muslim relations to child custody and starvation, Anwar tackles the gamut of modern challenges with style and care.

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The Storm

The Storm

By Arif Anwar
Atria
ISBN 9781501174506

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