Ruined by Reading

Maps for Lost Lovers

Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction by M on November 10, 2008

Maps for Lost Lovers centers around the death of two murdered lovers, Chanda and Jugnu, killed for living in sin. The story mostly follows Jugnu’s brother Shamas, and Shamas’ wife Kaukab who is strict, religious, and the exact opposite of Shamas. It also occasionally follows the beautiful Suraya who’s husband divorced her in a drunken fit, and a few other characters who narrate a chapter or two. Together, these characters tell the story of an immigrant community – a country within a country – full of lies, gossip, love, pain, hypocrisy and misogyny, where everyone’s lives are connected and intertwined.

I picked up Maps for Lost Lovers because of a positive book review I saw somewhere, praising the author’s prose. I didn’t find his prose or style of writing to be as amazing as the review had said, but I enjoyed the story. It took me awhile to get into it, but once I was interested it was hard to put down. However, I think a lot of people might not be able to get into it. Some people might find that the author really overdoes it on the similes.

I think the best part of this story is the character development. Throughout the book you get to know most major characters very intimately, and there is no absolute good or evil. Even most of the horrible characters have a little bit of a human side to them.

In the beginning I really hated Kaukab, but then I realized that she’s not so evil after all. Her internal dialogue irritates me and she is incredibly naive. But there are a few moments where she seems human, and near the end she seems to be more compassionate and caring than I had realized, like when she ends up embracing her son’s white wife instead of shunning her from the family forever (such a big accomplishment for some Pakistani mothers!). Sometimes she isn’t as naive as I had thought either, because she acknowledges that women have lives and love before their husbands. Her heart is in the right place.

Suraya upset me as well, even though this was my favorite story line. Her husband divorced her while he was drunk and regretted it in the morning, but in order for her to be able to remarry him and be with him and her son, she had to marry and divorce another man first. She was more intelligent than Kaukab, and I loved that Shamas loved her. Her internal thoughts were more rational, and she actually questioned her lot in life. This is my particular favorite:

Allah is not being equally compassionate about the poor woman who is having to go through another marriage through no fault of her own is a thought that has occasionally crossed Suraya’s mind, along with It’s as though Allah forgot there were women in the world when he made some of his laws, thinking only of men…” (p 153)

She also said something that I have observed to be true for many men, but have never been able to say it as well as the author does – that boldness is an admirable trait in women that men consort with, but an undesirable trait in a woman that a man wishes to marry. But, after all that she had been put through, I was irritated that she had not woken up to the fact that there are other ways for her to live her life, like the path that Shamas had offered her. I hate that she just threw her life away in the end.

The death of Chanda and Jugnu was a gateway into all the ills of this community and all the other stories that seemed to be separate but were really all connected. I found the little side stories really intriguing, even though some were really horrific and sickening. It was an upsetting read because, even though it’s fictional, most of the horrific crimes that happen in the book really do happen in real life.

Rating: 4/5

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3 Responses

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  1. veens said, on November 12, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Interesting- you have such interesting books :)

    and I also got myself Reluctant Fundamentalist :)

    YEp :) finally something similar :)

  2. Mish said, on November 13, 2008 at 4:58 am

    awesome. I just bought it yesterday, actually, as a Christmas gift for my aunt but I’m going to read it first. That’s probably a horrible thing to do, but I’d borrow it from her anyway lol

  3. […] for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam – Review God’s Crucible by David Levering Lewis – Review The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid […]


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