Sex and Other Social Devices

From The New York Times:

Book Reading Daniyal Mueenuddin’s mesmerizing first collection, “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” is like watching a game of blackjack, the shrewd players calculating their way beyond their dealt cards in an attempt to beat the dealer. Some bust, others surrender. But in Mueenuddin’s world, no one wins. Set in the Pakistani district of Punjab, the eight linked stories in this excellent book follow the lives of the rich and power­ful Harouni family and its employees: man­agers, drivers, gardeners, cooks, servants.

The patriarch, K. K. Harouni, of the feudal landowning class, owns a farm in Dunya­pur and a mansion in Lahore. In the title story, we meet him in the final years of his life, living mostly in Lahore, apart from his estranged wife, having surrendered the management of his farm to the corrupt Chaudrey Jaglani. When Husna, a distant relative whose branch of the family “had not so much fallen into poverty as failed to rise,” shows up at his door, Harouni takes her in, first as a servant, then as his mistress. For the aging paterfamilias, Husna is a distraction whose unrefined speech and manners offer a temporary escape from the infinite politesse of his own class. For her part, Husna, a more hard-boiled Madame Bovary, envious of the glittering, jet-­setting lives of the rich, ingratiates herself to the old man through calculated flirtations, believing sex is her ticket out of her lowly status. And for a while she is right. Until she no longer is.

More here.