How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
This book made it into this year's Tournament of Books, only to be knocked out in the first round by Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for a Time Being. I haven't read the Ozecki yet, despite checking out from the library twice. I will, eventually.
You may remember Hamid from his Reluctant Fundamentalist. This time out, he presents us with an unnamed protagonist and his struggles for wealth and power. Using the guise of a self-help book, each section shows us a different step our protagonist took to, well Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.
We first meet a young boy and his expanding family. They move from farmland to the city, where they share a room and live in squalor. The older children are married off or sent off to school and work to help support the family. Our protagonist falls for a pretty girl in school and we follow as the two cross each others paths as their stars rise and fall. Our guy starts his work delivering pirated videos to customers around the city. He gradually moves up into the bottled water business, making a name for himself in many circles. (We, the readers, however, apparently aren't in any of those circles). We then follow him through his life as he ages, grows a business, cheats and gets cheated, falls in and out of love, and moves slowly toward his last days.
I found the book to be interesting and I couldn't even begin to relate to a single one of the characters. I can't even imagine living a life like the ones we're introduced to in this book. Here are people who are foreign in every sense of the word. The struggle to survive is just as fascinating as the struggle to thrive. What happens when you go from abject poverty to "living the dream?" And, whose dream is it, anyway? What happens when the dream isn't ever like you dreamt? This is a book that stays with you, during your non-reading hours. I wondered about these people. I wondered about real people living these lives. I know they are out there. I can't imagine enduring all they did to get anywhere in the world.
I don't think I can adequately explain this book. There is so much going on and it gets pretty deep. You should just go check it out for yourself.