BookBrowse Reviews In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

by Daniyal Mueenuddin

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin X
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 224 pages

    Feb 2010, 256 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby
Buy This Book

About this Book



Themes of struggle and progress may be familiar, but Mueenuddin’s rich stories make them fresh and powerful, marking an auspicious debut

Daniyal Mueenuddin's first book has been called "a debut as auspicious as Jhumpa Lahiri's" (Nadeem Aslam). Considering Lahiri's debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, the comparison suggests there are high expectations for Mueenuddin. Luckily for us, his collection of eight related stories more than satisfies.

While In Other Rooms, Other Wonders can be read as a study in contrasts, from the socialite wedding in "Lily" to the marriage between a groundskeeper and a villager in "A Spoiled Man", they reveal more similarities than differences. Whether we find the characters in tree-lined estates or servants' quarters, nearly all of them are driven towards finding love or seeking advancement in post-colonial Pakistan. The effects of a feudal past on its inheritors would provide enough material for several books; Mueenuddin focuses on the drama in a handful of households, where drug abuse, murder, liaisons and the threat of cobras are equally at home with trips to the theater.

Several of these stories portray women's disappointments in marriage, adultery, or otherwise less-than-satisfying relationships. Read in a larger context, these problems could be viewed as symptomatic of a society that doesn't appear to offer viable alternatives for women to secure their futures in ways that extend beyond their reliance on a sexualized master/servant relationship. The repetition of this theme could weigh on readers sensitive to the suggestion that sex is for bargaining, but Mueenuddin handles the subject especially well. There's no sense of voyeurism in the bedroom scenes, and no overt preaching about inequality, gender roles, or social justice. The beauty of these stories is found in the absence of generalizations, and in the inclusion of telling details. Mueenuddin's attention to everything from clothing to physical gestures reveals a genuine passion for creating vibrant characters - the women remain individuals rather than seeming like messengers for a particular cause. Their suffering is not presented as the inevitable consequence for their choices, and even if some of them possess unpleasant traits, they're still captivating and multi-layered.

One of the more intriguing female characters is Sonya, the American wife in "A Spoiled Man", whose benevolence leads her to preserve a servant's shack as a memorial and as a conversation starter after his death. The gesture is a complicated mixture of public acknowledgment for his service, naïve curiosity, and tastelessness. Mueenuddin deftly illustrates Sonya's approach towards being a stranger in a strange land, where gestures of goodwill and charity can carry uncomfortable implications of superiority.

Mueenuddin often uses sudden twists-of-fate -- the appearance of a gunman, revelation of terminal illness, the timely arrival of a letter -- to catalyze the drama in his stories. Life can often bring about unexpected events, but these moments feel a little convenient at times, as though they've been included solely to hasten the story's climax and a character's demise. Nevertheless, this is a relatively minor issue in light of the author's otherwise thoughtful structure and talent for shaping female characters.

As in the best collections, the stories enhance each other, forging connections between recurrent characters and building a world where real locations like Islamabad and Lahore blend with imagined households. The stories illuminate the darker side of negotiating one's place in a country where survival depends on hustling and where a handful of nearly dynastic families still wield their power. Themes of struggle and progress may be familiar, but Mueenuddin's rich stories make them fresh and powerful, marking an auspicious debut.

Short Stories
Read the complete text of "Saleema", a story from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, exclusively at BookBrowse.

Three other complete short stories are linked from the author's website.

Reviewed by Karen Rigby

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2009, and has been updated for the February 2010 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, try these:

  • The Return of Faraz Ali jacket

    The Return of Faraz Ali

    by Aamina Ahmad

    Published 2023

    About this book

    Sent back to his birthplace - Lahore's notorious red-light district - to hush up the murder of a girl, a man finds himself in an unexpected reckoning with his past.

  • Temporary People jacket

    Temporary People

    by Deepak Unnikrishnan

    Published 2017

    About this book

    Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called "guest workers" of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering debut novel Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.

We have 9 read-alikes for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Join BookBrowse

For a year of great reading
about exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Land of Milk and Honey
    Land of Milk and Honey
    by C Pam Zhang
    In Land of Milk and Honey, C Pam Zhang's second novel, Earth is covered by a vast gray smog. Many of...
  • Book Jacket: The Golden Gate
    The Golden Gate
    by Amy Chua
    The Golden Gate is a highly entertaining page-turner that falls neatly into, but in some ways ...
  • Book Jacket: The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel
    The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel
    by Douglas Brunt
    Rudolf Diesel ought to be a household name. Like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Nikola Tesla, Diesel ...
  • Book Jacket: Move Like Water
    Move Like Water
    by Hannah Stowe
    As a child growing up on the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales, Hannah Stowe always loved the sea, ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mercury Pictures Presents
by Anthony Marra
A timeless story of love, deceit, and sacrifice set in Mussolini's Italy and 1940s Los Angeles.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Roaring Days of Zora Lily
    by Noelle Salazar

    A glittering novel of family, love, ambition, and self discovery by the bestselling author of The Flight Girls.

  • Book Jacket

    This Is Salvaged
    by Vauhini Vara

    Stories of uncanny originality from Vauhini Vara, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

  • Book Jacket

    The Wren, the Wren
    by Anne Enright

    An incandescent novel about the inheritance of trauma, wonder, and love across three generations of women.

Who Said...

To make a library it takes two volumes and a fire. Two volumes and a fire, and interest. The interest alone will ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

G O T P, B The P, F T P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.