American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

American DervishAmerican Dervish, Finished listening 12-4-12, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2012

The unabridged audio os 9.5 hours and read by the author.

Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.

Mina is Hayat’s mother’s oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah’s doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat’s skeptical father can’t deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family’s Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina’s side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.

from Goodreads

The book does an excellent job at delving into the life of Pakistanis that had moved to the midwest, with their customs and faith.  At times it felt like an Islam primer and I’m saying that in a positive way.  I enjoyed learning about new aspects to the religion that I was unfamiliar with, it’s been a long time since my college religion class!  Hayat’s parents were very lax Muslims and when Hayat became entranced with the Koran he thought he had found a way to get them both to Heaven.  From the outset of the novel you know that Hayat loses his faith so there’s no surprise there, but how he loses it is sad.

Since I really enjoyed that aspect why am I only rating it a 3?  As a story I just didn’t connect.  I never really liked Hayat and since it was his story that was a problem.  The character I found most interesting was his father, a flawed man with a sound mind.  As a coming of age story I was somewhat bored through most of it, although that may have more to do with me than the book.  I thought the beginning and end of story served little purpose. At the beginning I thought there would be more about his current life and in the end I didn’t feel like he’d made big strides as a person.

I thought the author did a fine job with the narration.  I am always drawn to audio books read by the author and this totally felt like his story as he was reading it.

I won the audio book cd’s from Nise and would love to share the love.  If you are interested in having me send them to you, just be the first to leave a comment to tell me so.  You could listen to it on your holiday travels 🙂

6 thoughts on “American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    My son had quite a few Muslim friends in high school so I know their high school experience is different from the typical American kids. I have the book and print and will try it that way.

  2. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    When the connection doesn’t happen the story almost always seems to be middle-of-the-road doesn’t it? I know very little about the Muslim faith and considered reading this a while back. I don’t think I will at this point but I did appreciate your review and insights!

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