A Small Fortune

( 2 )

Overview

An entertaining debut novel reminiscent of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth that explores the lives of an extended Pakistani family of immigrants in London—all with a gently humorous touch and fond but wry eye

Harris, the presumed patriarch of his large extended family in both England and Pakistan, has unexpectedly received a “small fortune” from his divorce settlement with an English woman: £53,000. As a devout Muslim, Harris views this sum as a “burden of riches” that he must unload ...

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A Small Fortune

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Overview

An entertaining debut novel reminiscent of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth that explores the lives of an extended Pakistani family of immigrants in London—all with a gently humorous touch and fond but wry eye

Harris, the presumed patriarch of his large extended family in both England and Pakistan, has unexpectedly received a “small fortune” from his divorce settlement with an English woman: £53,000. As a devout Muslim, Harris views this sum as a “burden of riches” that he must unload on someone else as quickly as possible. But deciding which relative to give it to proves to be a burden of its own, and soon he has promised it both to his extremely poor cousins in Pakistan and to his Westernized, college-student daughter. Then, in a rash bout of guilt and misunderstanding, Harris signs the entire sum away to the least deserving, most prosperous cousin of all. This solves none of his problems and creates many more, exacerbating a tricky web of familial debt and obligation on two sides of the world, until the younger generation steps in to help.

With insight, affection, and a great gift for character and story, Dastgir immerses us in a rich, beautifully drawn immigrant community and complex extended family. She considers the challenges between relatives of different cultural backgrounds, generations, and experiences—and the things they have to teach one another. A Small Fortune offers an affectionate and affecting look at class, culture, and the heartbreak of misinterpretation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Harris, a likable, middle-aged Pakistani émigré living in the North of England, immediately comes to life in the opening pages of this charming debut novel, as does his daughter, Alia. Unbeknownst to her father, who is separated from Alia’s British mother, Alia has dropped out of med school in London and is living with her English boyfriend. Harris’s shock at learning the truth about Alia’s circumstances, among other emotional setbacks, creates a rift between the two that takes the rest of the novel to mend. As vividly as the book begins, however, the pace drags as members of their extended family, both in England and Pakistan, enter the narrative. While the book’s strength relies on Dastgir’s insightful ability to knit together distinct yet interdependent lives—and while getting acquainted with each individual does feel worthwhile—the energy of the narrative too often slows amid stilted dialogue and multiple versions of emotional indecision. Finally, when Rashid, a close family friend, gets mixed up with radical Islamists, the plot veers toward the predictable. An absorbing conclusion reveals Dastgir’s talent, heart, and clear knack for pulling it all together. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta. (June)
Library Journal
This charming debut offers rich insights into the complexities of immigrant life in England. When Harris, a Pakistani patriarch, receives a windfall following his divorce settlement, he struggles to identify the most deserving family member to benefit from his largesse, motivated by his devout Islamic faith and his strong affection for his extended family. The humorous yet touching aftermath of his unwise decision to offer the money to a less-than-deserving cousin reveals the burdens as well as the blessings of family life. His relationships with various family members slowly deteriorate, beginning with his Westernized daughter Alia. VERDICT Dastgir's smartly written first novel entertains even as it captures the essence of the changing immigrant community and the slow urban decline of contemporary England. The story transcends fiction focused on a particular demographic, revealing struggles shared by many extended families. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/11.]—Faye A. Chadwell, Oregon State Univ. Libs., Corvallis
Kirkus Reviews
A rambling, good-natured consideration of Pakistani immigrants to England and their evolution into Eastern Westerners. Dastgir's affable debut moves out in branches, like the extended families explored in her somewhat formless story. Its central character is Pakistan-born Harris (originally the less pronounceable Haaris), whose marriage to an English woman has ended in divorce and whose ever-worsening money troubles have forced him to leave the comfortable southeast of England for the poorer north, where he runs a convenience store. The divorce settlement's lump sum could make a difference, but bad health forces Harris to rely on a local relative, leaving him deeper in his financial mess. And there's worse: Harris is compromised by his inability to help a needy relative in Pakistan; he's become involved with an attractive, independent widow; and his daughter, who has dropped out of her medical studies, seems to have a live-in boyfriend. Peripheral characters--wily entrepreneurs; a servant of Islam who falls under the influence of a dubious imam--add further facets and some clichés to the composite portrait of immigrant life, but ineffectual Harris' seemingly inexorable decline is the main topic, until averted by younger family influences. Although wryly insightful, Dastgir's consideration of the immigrant community could use a little grit to balance the benign charm.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594631511
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,421,640
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosie Dastgir was born in England to a Pakistani father and an English mother. She was educated at Oxford University and received an MFA in film from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 28, 2012

    It held my interest

    Basically an interesting story and an insight into a culture which is displaced in Britain. The characters were well developed however I'm not sure that I cared very much what happened to them. So when the book just ended, it was somewhat unsatisfying. Maybe it was a happy ending - or maybe - life just goes on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2012

    I learned about Pakastani living

    not the world's greatest thriller

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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