Book Review: The Storm by Arif Anwar

Book Name: The Storm

Author: Arif Anwar

Publisher: Aleph

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3.9/5

Book Blurb: Inspired by the 1970 Bhola cyclone, in which half a million people perished overnight, The Storm seamlessly interweaves five love stories that, together, chronicle sixty years of Bangladeshi history. ~ Shahryar, a recent PhD graduate and the father of nine-year-old Anna, must leave the US when his visa expires. In their last remaining weeks together, we learn his story, beginning in a village on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman and his wife are preparing to face a storm of historic proportions. Their story intersects with those of a Japanese fighter pilot, a British female doctor stationed in Burma during World War II and a privileged couple in Calcutta who leave everything behind to move to East Pakistan following the Partition of India. The structure of this riveting novel mimics the storm itself—building to a series of revelatory and moving climaxes as it explores the many ways in which families love, betray, honor and sacrifice for one another. At once grounded in history and fantastically imaginative, The Storm is a sweeping epic in the tradition of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, by an immensely talented new voice in international fiction.

Review: Arif Anwar’s The Storm is a unique take on love and relationships. The writer has captured the emotional turmoil in relationships very well.

The primary story revolves around Shahryar and his daughter Anna. Faced with bleak future prospects, Shahryar must find a job to remain in the US or face deportation and the possibility of not meeting his daughter again. He tries everything and becomes involved in a mess trying to find a job. Other stories complete the novel but in my opinion, the book would have done well to solely explore this unique story rather than being an amalgamation of many such stories. This is the biggest shortcoming of this otherwise lovely book. The narrative becomes difficult to follow and you tend to lose interest. I read it in parts completing each individual story which made the reading experience less harrowing.

There are no direct accusations or motives in The Storm but each individual is a victim of circumstance, sometimes of their own making and very often they come across as an unwilling participant. The tales are morbid no doubt but also explore sacrifices and the tendency of humans to make the best of what they are offered.

“It brings him joy to see her interest in writing Bangla, to see her work on the project un-prodded.”

Arif is a powerful writer and his lyrical prose never falters. The relationships between Shahryar and Anna is explored very well and you cannot help but empathise with their plight. The whole work could have been a lot better had the author focused on just one story.

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