Synopses & Reviews
"Astonishing. Okparantas narrators render their stories with such strength and intimacy, such lucidity and composure, that in each and every case the truths of their lives detonate deep inside the readers heart, with the power and force of revelation."—Paul Harding
Here are Nigerian women at home and transplanted to the United States, building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love. Here are characters faced with dangerous decisions, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties. Here is a world marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, buses that break down and never start up again. Here is a portrait of Nigerians that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving, and across social strata, dealing in every kind of change. Here are stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch. Happiness, Like Water introduces a true talent, a young writer with a beautiful heart and a capacious imagination.
"Intricate, graceful prose propels Okparantas profoundly moving and illuminating book. I devoured these stories and immediately wanted more. This is an arrival."—NoViolet Bulawayo
"Okparanta's prose is tender, beautiful and evocative. These powerful stories of contemporary Nigeria are told with compassion and a certain sense of humor. What a remarkable new talent."—Chika Unigwe
"A haunting and startlingly original collection of short stories about the lives of Nigerians both at home and in America. Happiness, Like Water is a deeply affecting literary debut, the work of a sure and gifted new writer."—Julie Otsuka
"In eight beautifully crafted, interconnected stories, Mueenuddin explores the cutthroat feudal society in which a rich Lahore landowner is entrenched. A complicated network of patronage undergirds the micro-society of servants, families and opportunists surrounding wealthy patron K.K. Harouni. In 'Nawabdin Electrician,' Harouni's indispensable electrician, Nawab, excels at his work and at home, raising 12 daughters and one son by virtue of his cunning and ingenuity — qualities that allow him to triumph over entrenched poverty and outlive a robber bent on stealing his livelihood. Women are especially vulnerable without the protection of family and marriage ties, as the protagonist of 'Saleema' learns: a maid in the Harouni mansion who cultivates a love affair with an older servant, Saleema is left with a baby and without recourse when he must honor his first family and renounce her. Similarly, the women who become lovers of powerful men, as in the title story and in 'Provide, Provide,' fall into disgrace and poverty with the death of their patrons. An elegant stylist with a light touch, Mueenuddin invites the reader to a richly human, wondrous experience." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Daniyal Mueenuddin takes us into a sumptuously created world, peopled with characters who are both irresistible and compellingly human. His stories unfold with the authenticity and resolute momentum of timeless classics." Manil Suri
"A stunning achievement....Such is its narrative power that I couldn't stop turning the page." Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Remarkable. . . . a poignant picture of Punjabi life.Mueenuddin’s talent lets us perceive not just [Pakistan’s] machinations but also its beauty. . . . In this labyrinth of power games and exploits, Mueenuddin inserts luminous glimmers of longing, loss and, most movingly, unfettered love.Mueenuddin convincingly captures the mindset or speech of any class. . . . A collection full of pleasures.[Mueenuddin’s] crisp, vivid voice glides effortlessly into his various characters’ heads. . . . Dark stuff, but full of beauty.Starred Review. An elegant stylist with a light touch, Mueenuddin invites the reader to a richly human, wondrous experience.Daniyal Mueenuddin takes us into a sumptuously created world, peopled with characters who are both irresistible and compellingly human. His stories unfold with the authenticity and resolute momentum of timeless classics. --Manil Suri
A stunning achievement. This superb collection ranges across a vast swath of contemporary Pakistan—from megacities to isolated villages, from feudal landlords to servant girls—and such is its narrative power that I couldn’t stop turning the page. Daniyal Mueenuddin is a writer of enormous ambition, and he has the prodigious talent to match. --Mohsin Hamid
A blazingly good writer. He brings to vivid and compelling life a country and its people. --David Davidar, author of The Solitude of Emperors
Daniyal Mueenuddin’s Pakistanis are like Chekhov’s Russians, so fully realized that we never wonder over what motivates them. They are living, breathing presences—sometimes brought so close that, I daresay, you hear the sounds of their breathing and the roll of gravel under their feet. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders brings us a new way of seeing the world, and it is one that we could not have anticipated. --Elizabeth Evans, author of Carter Clay
Another virtuoso book I want to recommend is In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, a collection of stories by the Pakistani-American writer Daniyal Mueenuddin. I can't praise Mueenuddin's work too much: He has the gifts of insight into human behavior of Alice Munro, the gift for detail we find in Updike and William Trevor, and the ability to make sentences and paragraphs that pack the punch of something out of James Salter and Richard Ford. --Alan Cheuse
2014 New York Public Library Young Lions Award Finalist
2014 Rolex Mentors and Protégés Arts Initiative Finalist in Literature
2014 Lambda Awards General Lesbian Fiction Finalist
2013 Society of Midland Authors Award Finalist
2013 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, Long-listed
2013 Caine Prize in African Writing Finalist
Editors' Choice, New York Times Book Review
The Guardian's Best African Fiction of 2013
2012 United States Artists Fellowship Nominated Author
“Full of movement…These tales will break your heart open. Okparanta guides you through her stories with lovely, surreal, haunting clarity.”
—New York Daily News
"Okparanta is an unpretentious writer, but her ambition comes through in the lives she renders—young Nigerian women divided between home and a new world."
"The stories in Okparantas first collection are quiet, often unnervingly so, in the manner of a stifled shriek…One character notes the silences that fall between her and her mother, ‘as if we no longer valued spoken words, as if spoken words were gaudy finishes on a delicate piece of art, unnecessary distractions from the masterpiece, whose substance was more meaningfully experienced if left unornamented. If this is Okparantas goal - the distillation of experience into something crystalline, stark but lustrous - she is well on her way there."
—New York Times Book Review
"Chinelo Okparanta was chosen as one of Grantas six new voices for 2012, and its easy to see why. Her short story collection, Happiness, Like Water (Mariner), is a triumph of a book. The ten stories are all short but powerful, tracing the lives of women from Okparantas native Nigeria…Ultimately Okparantas collection is not so much a statement about Nigerian women as it is a depiction of a few women who happen to be Nigerian going through universal issues in their own, unique social contexts. Its a book about Nigeria, about America, and about women everywhere told in short sentences and simple, matter-of-fact language that manages to be incredibly emotionally evocative nonetheless. Okparanta is a certainly a voice to watch, and clearly deserves a place on any bookshelf beside fellow Nigerian authors Achebe and Adichie."
"The stories are quiet and understated and lucid and gather up their power almost without the reader realizing it, then they break your heart, just like that. Such subtle and open and strong writing."
"This promising young author delivers an affecting collection, revolving around African women, at home and abroad, contemplating religion and love."—Time Out New York
"Okparanta pays great attention to detail, making it easy to get caught up in the problems of these women who must fend for themselves. . . She writes with compassion and strength for these nameless, faceless women who are unable to defend their own actions."—Bust
"Bittersweet. . .[Happiness, Like Water] is an extremely promising debut: the handling of tone and perspective is assured; the prose lucid and elegant throughout."—Financial Times (UK)
"The unsparing stories of Happiness, Like Water show Okparanta to be a champion of young, frequently misunderstood female protagonists whose voices are too often stifled."
"Okparanta skillfully introduces readers to a new world held back by old-world traditions"
"Nigeria, the vibrancy of its heart, the soul of its people, is captured in these stories."
"[Okparanta] confirms her place as a writer to watch with the remarkable debut collection Hapiness, Like Water... A clear-eyed, sensitive debut collection of stories by a talented young Nigerian writer exploring themes of family, religion, longing and duty."
"Chinelo Okparantas debut collection is astonishing. Her narrators render their stories with such strength and intimacy, such lucidity and composure, that in each and every case the truths of their lives detonate deep inside the readers heart, with the power and force of revelation."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers
"Okparanta's prose is tender, beautiful and evocative. These powerful stories of contemporary Nigeria are told with compassion and a certain sense of humour. What a remarkable new talent."
—Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street
"Intricate, graceful prose propels Okparantas profoundly moving and illuminating book. I devoured these stories and immediately wanted more. This is an arrival."
—NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing
"A haunting and startlingly original collection of short stories about the lives of Nigerians both at home and in America. Okparantas characters are forced to make difficult, often impossible choices—a university student decides to go to work as an escort to pay for her mothers medical bills, a high school teacher is asked to come home to care for her dying, abusive father—and yet they manage to prevail through quiet and sometimes surprising acts of defiance. Okparantas prose is elegant and precise, fueled by a strong undercurrent of rage that surfaces at unexpected moments. Happiness, Like Water is a deeply affecting literary debut, the work of a sure and gifted new writer."
—Julie Otsuka, author of National Bestseller and National Book Award Finalist The Buddha in the Attic
"Without bluster, Chinelo Okparanta writes stories that are brave and devastating."
—Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
"[Q]uiet, meticulous, unflinching meditations on the trajectories of three contemporary lives, and on the Indian cultures and landscapes that helped shape them." --San Francisco Chronicle "[A] collection of three superb novellas…. deceptively subtle, slightly surreal and profoundly insightful fiction of a world-class writer...These evocative stories about art and culture are sewn deeply into the fraying fabric of modern-day India. The only thing little about this book is its size." --The Washington Post "...eloquent and understated...[Desai's prose is] distinguished by its sober, often bracing prose, its patient eye for all-telling detail and its humane but penetrating intelligence..." --The New York Times Book Review "'[Desai] proves you can go home again...stirring..." --Marie Claire "In three ensnaring novellas of consummate artistry and profoundly disquieting perceptions, master storyteller Desai reflects on the transforming power and devastating limitations of art... Desais provocative and mysterious tales of displacement trace the reverberations when the dream of art collides with crushing reality." --Booklist, starred "...poignant and wry...a deft exploration of the limits people place on themselves by trying to cling to the past." --Kirkus Reviews "This collection leaves an indelible impression of the conflicts and ambitions found in a region riddled with conflict." --Publishers Weekly
A major literary debut that explores class, culture, power, and desire among the ruling and servant classes of Pakistan.
In the spirit of Joyce's Dubliners and Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches, Daniyal Mueenuddin's collection of linked stories illuminates a place and a people through an examination of the entwined lives of landowners and their retainers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan. An aging feudal landlord's household staff, the villagers who depend on his favor, and a network of relations near and far who have sought their fortune in the cities confront the advantages and constraints of station, the dissolution of old ways, and the shock of change.
Mueenuddin bares — at times humorously, at times tragically — the complexities of Pakistani class and culture and presents a vivid picture of a time and a place, of the old powers and the new, as the Pakistani feudal order is undermined and transformed.
Together the stories inIn Other Rooms, Other Wonders make up a vivid portrait of feudal Pakistan, describing the advantages and constraints of social station, the dissolution of old ways, and the shock of change. Refined, sensuous, by turn humorous, elegiac, and tragic, Mueenuddin evokes the complexities of the Pakistani feudal order as it is undermined and transformed.
In the spirit of James Joyce's Dubliners, Mueenuddin's collection of linked stories illuminates a place and a people through an examination of the entwined lives of landowners and their retainers on the Gurmani family farm in Lahore, Pakistan.
Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction and the 2009 Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. "The rural rootedness and gentle humour of R.K. Narayan with the literary sophistication and stylishness of Jhumpa Lahiri."--
Passing from the mannered drawing rooms of Pakistan's cities to the harsh mud villages beyond, Daniyal Mueenuddin's linked stories describe the interwoven lives of an aging feudal landowner, his servants and managers, and his extended family, industrialists who have lost touch with the land. In the spirit of Joyce's and Turgenev's , these stories comprehensively illuminate a world, describing members of parliament and farm workers, Islamabad society girls and desperate servant women. A hard-driven politician at the height of his powers falls critically ill and seeks to perpetuate his legacy; a girl from a declining Lahori family becomes a wealthy relative's mistress, thinking there will be no cost; an electrician confronts a violent assailant in order to protect his most valuable possession; a maidservant who advances herself through sexual favors unexpectedly falls in love. Together the stories in make up a vivid portrait of feudal Pakistan, describing the advantages and constraints of social station, the dissolution of old ways, and the shock of change. Refined, sensuous, by turn humorous, elegiac, and tragic, Mueenuddin evokes the complexities of the Pakistani feudal order as it is undermined and transformed.
Advance Praise for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders:
'Astonishing . . . reveals a writer who seems to combine the intimate rural rootedness and gentle humour of R.K. Narayan with the literary sophistication and stylishness of Jhumpa Lahiri. . . . In Other Rooms, Other Wondersis quite unlike anything recently published on the Indian side of the border, and throws the gauntlet down to a new generation of Indian writers. For the first time in this part of Asia, there is serious competition out there."William Dalrymple, Financial Times
'A stunning achievement. This superb collection ranges across a vast swath of contemporary Pakistan'"from megacities to isolated villages, from feudal landlords to servant girls'"and such is its narrative power that I couldn"t stop turning the page. Daniyal Mueenuddin is a writer of enormous ambition, and he has the prodigious talent to match."Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
'A blazingly good writer. He brings to vivid and compelling life a country and its people."David Davidar, author of The Solitude of Emperors
'Daniyal Mueenuddin"s Pakistanis are like Chekhov"s Russians, so fully realized that we never wonder over what motivates them. They are living, breathing presences'"sometimes brought so close that, I daresay, you hear the sounds of their breathing and the roll of gravel under their feet. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders brings us a new way of seeing the world, and it is one that we could not have anticipated."Elizabeth Evans, author of Carter Clay
Short-listed three times for the Booker Prize, Anita Desai explores time and transformation in these artful novellas
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Anita Desai ruminates on art and memory, illusion and disillusion, and the sharp divide between lifes expectations and its realities in three perfectly etched novellas. Set in India in the not-too-distant past, the stories dramas illuminate the ways in which Indian culture can nourish or suffocate. All are served up with Desais characteristic perspicuity, subtle humor, and sensitive writing.
Overwhelmed by their own lack of purpose, the men and women who populate these tales set out on unexpected journeys that present them with a fresh sense hope and opportunity. Like so many flies in a spiders web, however, they cannot escape their surroundingsas none of us can. An impeccable craftsman, Desai elegantly reveals our human frailties and the power of place.
A moving debut story collection centered on Nigerian women, as they build lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, and the burden and strength of love.
Award-winning novelist Anita Desai explores time and transformation in these three artful novellas
A triptych of beautifully crafted novellas make up Anita Desais exquisite new book. Set in modern India, but where history still casts a long shadow, the stories move beyond the cities to places still haunted by the past, and to characters who are, each in their own way, masters of self-effacement.
In ‘The Museum of Final Journeys an unnamed government official is called upon to inspect a faded mansion of forgotten treasures, each sent home by the absent, itinerant master. As he is taken through the estate, wondering whether to save these precious relics, he reaches the final - greatest - gift of all, looming out of the shadows.
In ‘Translator, Translated, middle-aged Prema meets her successful publisher friend Tara at a school reunion. Tara hires her as a translator, but Prema, buoyed by her work and the sense of purpose it brings, begins deliberately to blur the line between writer and translator, and in so doing risks unravelling her desires and achievements.
The final story is of Ravi, living hermit-like in the burnt-out shell of his family home high up in the Himalayan mountains. He cultivates not only silence and solitude but a secret hidden away in the woods, concealed from sight. When a film crew from Delhi intrude upon his seclusion, it compels him to withdraw even further until he magically and elusively disappears…
Rich and evocative, remarkable in their clarity and sensuous in their telling, these stories remind us of the extraordinary yet delicate power of this pre-eminent writer.
About the Author
One of Granta’s six New Voices for 2012, CHINELO OKPARANTA grew up a Jehovah’s Witness. She lived in Nigeria until the age of ten, when her family came to the United States. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has also taught middle school, high school, and college.
Table of Contents
Contents On Ohaeto Street 1
Story, Story! 47
Runs Girl 67
Tumours and Butterflies 169