Summary and book reviews of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

A Novel

By Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2013,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2014,
    240 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the boldly imagined tale of a poor boy's quest for wealth and love.

His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world's pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation, and exceeds it. the astonishing and riveting tale of a man's journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over "rising Asia." It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

Excerpt
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

As you lie motionless, a young jaundiced village boy, radish juice dribbling from the corner of your lips and forming a small patch of mud on the ground, it must seem that getting filthy rich is beyond your reach. But have faith. You are not as powerless as you appear. Your moment is about to come. Yes, this book is going to offer you a choice.

Decision time arrives a few hours later. The sun has set and your mother has shifted you onto the cot, where you lie swaddled in a blanket even though the evening is warm. The men have returned from the fields, and the family, all except you, have eaten together in the courtyard. Through your doorway you can hear the gurgle of a water pipe and see the flare of its coals as one of your uncles inhales.

Your parents stand over you, looking down. Tomorrow your father will return to the city. He is thinking.

"Will you be all right?" he asks you.

It is the first question he has asked you on ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think the author chose to write this novel not only in the second person but also in the form of a self–help book? What effect did these choices have on your experience as a reader?

  2. How does the transition from rural to urban life affect the family? What challenges does it alleviate for them, both individually and as a unit, and what new challenges does it create?

  3. What first intrigues the hero about the pretty girl? In what ways does her rise parallel—and diverge from—his? Were you surprised by the course of their affair? Why do you think the author chose to give it this form rather than craft a more conventional romance? What does the book ultimately have to say about love?

  4. What happens to morality—for ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The second person “you” is hard to read, although talented writers like Junot Diaz have done wonders with it, and Hamid’s usage of “you” feels especially appropriate for this biting story. The “you,” Hamid seems to say, encompasses every individual in rising Asia.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (1248 words).

Media Reviews
Bookforum

Hamid's choice to write a bildungsroman wrapped inside a self-help manual is an inspired one… Hamid has left us with no doubts about how state and market, law and crime, nation and corporation, and money and violence go together - in rising Asia as in the rest of the world.

The Washington Post

Working within the frame of a self-help book would seem constricting at best, annoying at worst, but Hamid tells a surprisingly moving story…His protagonist is never named, indeed, there aren't any named people or places in this novel…But the story manages to be both particular and broad at the same time.

The Daily Beast

Written in the most compelling second person since Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, with which it also shares a sharp take on our frenetic, urban lives, Hamid's novel proves that the most compelling fiction today is coming from South Asia.

The Nation

An astonishing and riveting tale of a man's journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon.

The New York Times

With How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers.

Publishers Weekly

Hamid offers a subtle and rich look at the social realities of developing countries, including corruption, poverty, and how economic development affects daily life from top to bottom.

Kirkus

Starred Review. Another great success for Hamid and another illustration of how richly the colonial margins are feeding the core of literature in English.

The Guardian (UK)

A joyously barbed satire on entrepreneurialism and the juggernaut of globalisation… Will be one of the standout novels of the year.

Author Blurb Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and How It Ended
A dazzling stylistic tour de force; a love story disguised as a self-help guide, freighted with sly social satire. As timely and timeless a novel as I've read in years.

Author Blurb Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass
A marvelous book.

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The World's Water Tables in Crisis

In How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the protagonist starts out in the water business by boiling tap water and selling it in plastic water bottles. Later on, he is approached by the country's Defense Department because it wants to build a reliable and safe water supply for the country. But the protagonist and the head honchos in the government know that the water tables around the world are shrinking and that their goal might yet be a pipe dream. As Filthy Rich's narrator says, "You hear reports that the water table continues to drop, the thirst of many millions driving bore after steel bore deeper and deeper into the aquifer, to fill countless leaky pipes and seepy, unlined channels, phenomena with which you are intimately familiar ...

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