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Jugnu and his lover, Chanda, have disappeared. Though unmarried, they had been living together, embracing the contemporary mores of the English town where they lived but disgracing themselves in the eyes of their close-knit Pakistani community. Rumors about their disappearance abound, but five months go by before anything certain is known. Finally, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for the murder of their sister and Jugnu.
Shock and disbelief spread through the community, and for Jugnu’s brother, Shamas, and his wife, Kaukab, it is a moment that marks the beginning of the unraveling of all that is sacred to them. As the novel unfolds over the next twelve months, we watch Kaukab struggle to maintain her Islamic piety as the effects of the double murder prove increasingly corrosive to the life of her family.
Upon its publication last year in England, Alan Hollinghurst praised Maps for Lost Lovers as “haunting, vivid, and tender,” and Colm Tóibín hailed it as “a superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn.” Beautifully written, emotionally and sensually arresting—“a Persian love poem for the twenty-first century” (Books Quarterly)—this deeply felt and moving novel explores the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, nationality, religion, and the most personal crises of faith. Maps for Lost Lovers introduces American readers to a magnificent voice in fiction.
“Extraordinary . . . Writing such as this not only gives dignity to people that we see, if at all, as benighted and lost; it deepens our knowledge of life . . . Combining within himself the social historian with the poet, the realist with the romantic, Aslam has created a novel which—grave yet exultant, brutal but compassionate—achieves its complex humanity, and its final affirmations of love and beauty, through a real reckoning with despair and heartbreak.” —Pankaj Mishra, New York Review of Books
“Aslam is a rich and vividly metaphorical writer . . . This is an exquisitely sad novel, and it is worth the effort of letting its spell take you over.” —Newsday
“Poetic, sensuous, precisely descriptive and lavishly allusive prose . . . The prevailingly tragic atmosphere is shot through with luminous gleams of beauty, hope and light, making Maps for Lost Lovers not only an important and memorable achievement, but a book that is deeply satisfying to read.” —The Washington Times
“Aslam manages an impressive feat: His prose is stylistically dazzling, full of poetic, richly descriptive and tender passages . . . His characters’ inner lives are explored in-depth, flaws and all. Their loneliness and despair are instantly recognizable, resulting in a novel as affecting as it is provocative.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Aslam reveals—artfully and heartbreakingly—a psychology at war with itself . . . His prose is richly atmospheric, his tone engagingly introspective, and his descriptions of the English countryside are infused with an elegaic pastoral sensibility.” —Akash Kapur, The New York Times Book Review
“Make no mistake: Maps for Lost Lovers is a writer’s tour de force . . . The novel’s pages are teeming with poetical descriptions and lapidary prose. You can’t help but notice the craftsmanship that goes into this kind of writing [and] unlike so many literary novelists working today, Aslam actually has a story to tell, a powerful one.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“[An] exquisitely crafted, lushly written novel . . . Aslam combines sensual prose with a compelling storyline.” —Booklist
“Poignant, lushly written . . . a truthful story that resists easy conclusions.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A] painstakingly crafted exploration of cultural conflict . . . exquisite.” —Kirkus
Praise from the U.K. for Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers
In the Guardian:
“Haunting. [Aslam’s] vivid and tender portrait of the strict Islamic mother, isolated by her unassailable belief, has stayed with me; as has his metamorphosis of a Northern English town into a poet's universe of flowers, trees and butterflies.” –Alan Hollinghurst, author of The Line of Beauty and The Swimming Pool Library
“My three favourite recent novels have each taken some 10 years to write: Anil's Ghost, The Little Friend, and now Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam. This richly textured novel–about animals, plants, food as well as love, loyalty, home and exile–is both a brutally realistic and glintingly poetic masterpiece.” –Tim Pears, author of A Revolution of the Sun and In the Place of Falling Leaves
In the Observer:
“A superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn. Its real power derives, however, from the two main characters, immigrants in England, who are offered an immensely complex life, one sensuous, intelligent and political, the other domestic, fierce in her loyalties and religious beliefs. Both of them are fascinating and memorable.” –Colm Toibin, author of The Master and Blackwater Lightship
In the Daily Telegraph:
“A lushly written, revealing account of a turbulent year in a Pakistani community in the North of England.” –David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten
“One of those rare novels that enter your imagination and stay there. Much attention has been paid to its theme of honour-killing among Muslims in an English mill town, but to focus only on themes is to undervalue the book. Its power comes from the haunting beauty of the language and from excellent characterisation.” –Helen Dunmore, author of The Siege and Morning Ruby
“Nadeem Aslam spent a dozen years working on Maps for Lost Lovers and its publication is a cause for celebration. Aslam writes so beautifully, and his book uncovers an England new to readers, finding poetry and truth in an invented Northern town. It is one of those novels that will find its way into people's long-term affections, no matter what.” –Andy O'Hagan, author of Our Fathers and Personality
In the Times Literary Supplement:
“I greatly enjoyed Nadeem Aslam's artful and moving novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, which describes a year in the life of an immigrant Muslim community in England.” –Pankaj Mishra, author of The Romantics and An End to Suffering
“A striking and impressive novel.” —The Sunday Times
“Rich in detail, languid in cadence and iridescent with remarkable images . . . Aslam takes us by the hand and, scattering his trail of bewitching images, leads us into his story . . . Rarely does Aslam put a foot wrong. This is that rare sort of book that gives a voice to those whose voices are seldom heard.” —The Observer
“Maps for Lost Lovers is a work of great courage both technically and spiritually . . . Stylistically the novel is equally daring . . . A filigree of quests for loves that never were, of passions cut short and of romances that are about to be. I was heartbroken when the dense, dark tapestry was finished.” —The Independent
“An extraordinary work, echoing Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie, but entirely, and unmistakably, the product of a wholly original mind.” —The Herald
“In this book, filled with stories of cruelty, injustice, bigotry and ignorance, love never steps out of the picture–it gleams at the edges of even the deepest wounds . . . [a] remarkable achievment.” —The Guardian
“ ‘Maps for Lost Lovers’ is a novel of extraordinary quality. Islamists would be foolish to try and make political mischief out of it, while western readers would be foolish to ignore such a carefully crafted work.” —The Economist
“This is a Persian love poem for the 21st century, and Aslam is an author to watch.”
“Aslam’s prose soars, dazzling images abound . . . Through the opulence of his writing and the darkness of his message Aslam quite brilliantly and shockingly seduces his reader . . . Beautiful and only too real, this story born of romance and pain matches its artistry with courage. It is an important novel and also a very fine one.” —The Irish Times