Amal: the practical sister who digs up the "diamond key" that unlocks the mystery of Pakicetus, a whale-dog creature who once swam the ancient seas that are now Pakistan. These are the four shifting chambers who make the heart of The Geometry of God, the new novel from lauded Pakistani writer Uzma Aslam Khan. Through these vivid, contradictory, and original characters, Khan celebrates the complexities of familial and erotic love, the tug of curiosity and duty, the intersections of faith and longing. Her exuberant language draws from Urdu and Punjabi and invents one of its own for Mehwish, whose fractured English divides and slows and reveals.
Mehwish: the blind younger sister, who moves with the sun and music inside her and thinks in "cup lits not fully legal."
Zahoor: their heretical grandfather, a scientist who loves variation and "vim zee" and his two granddaughters most of all.
Noman: the young man who steps into a lecture hall, decides "their triangle needs a fourth point," and changes all their lives.
These are the four shifting chambers who make the heart of The Geometry of God, the new novel from lauded Pakistani writer Uzma Aslam Khan. Through these vivid, contradictory, and original characters, Khan celebrates the complexities of familial and erotic love, the tug of curiosity and duty, the intersections of faith and longing. Her exuberant language draws from Urdu and Punjabi and invents one of its own for Mehwish, whose fractured English divides and slows and reveals.
Rating:9.75 out of 10
Source:borrowed from my library
When the Natick book club first selected The Geometry of God by Uzsma Aslam Khan, I had no idea what to expect. As I got deeper into the book, I found myself searching for reasons to read another paragraph or chapter or sentence. The night before I drove to DC to begin my new job, I stayed up TOO LATE finishing the book because I needed to know what happened before I had to return the library book. On my drive, I found myself thinking about the characters and marveling at the story. The book truly draws you into several worlds. In one world is the conflict between the religious and the scientific community. In another world, you are watching Amal and Mehwish grow up and try to figure out ways to transform the way they function in the world.
As cliche as it sounds and because I am still tired, I REALLY LOVED this book! Surprisingly, I related to all four of the main characters even Norman who irritated me. I appreciated Amal's struggle to be seen as a competent professional woman while also being a good sister and partner to her husband. One of my favorite quotes from her is:
"I have only ever wanted to be a humble voice in a mighty chorus. I have only ever wanted to be a small flame in a greater fire. Tonight, I am."
In the book, Amal works to find professional fulfilment, but in order to do that she has to tune out voices of her parents and in-laws. I appreciate that she wanted to make small changes to her marriage in order to have a partnership that reflects who she is trying to become.
I really loved Zahoor's curiosity and desire to share knowledge with his family and the general public. I also appreciated that he was not afraid to speak up against brainwashing and the hypocrisy shown by religious fundamentalists in the book. Not to give too much away, but when he was in prison, it broke my heart when he was upset that he could not read because there was no light in his room. The interaction between him and Amal reminded me a lot of time I spent with my own grandfather.
Even though I did not care for Norman very much, I appreciated that he was trying to keep peace and be a good son even as he destroyed another man's life. Another one of my favorite quotes was when Zahoor questions Norman about his life purpose:
"What would you do with your hands if deprived the power to sign your name across my life?"
When I read that quote and the exchange, my jaw dropped. It was such a powerful scene and made me think of how many people derive power and status from putting down others. Even though it would be easy to demonize some characters in the book, the author does a great job of showing the complexity of all characters.
My favorite narrator in the story is Mehwish. She is blind and, as a result, all of her descriptions are very sensory. It amazed me how she could tell what was happening the room even when no words were spoken. As cheesy as it sounds, I loved watching her grown-up. Each time I read a passage, I could see subtle and not so subtle in her way of absorbing information.
Even though I had read books that explored the concept of science versus religion and of women challenging the status quo, I have never read anything quite like this. The beginning was a bit slow, but by the end I was excited to see what happens next and very sad to finish. I miss reading the stories of the characters. I appreciated that the book made me pause, reflect, and reread at several points before I went on. Maybe it is because I have only been reading for work for the last two weeks, but I am really missing reading this book. I wish that I had finished it before the book club meeting because I would have really enjoyed a vigorous discussion about many elements in the book.
In addition to enjoying the book VERY much for book club, I am also counting it towards the following challenges:
- Orbis Terrarum: The author was born in Pakistan
- Global Reading Challenge: The book takes place in Pakistan
- South Asian Author Challenge: The author is Pakistani and the novel takes place in Pakistan.
- Women Unbound: Two of the characters are women struggling with who they are supposed to be with who they want to become.