Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Summary: 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. -- Riverhead

Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure why I read HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA by Mohsin Hamid. I didn't find the cover or the title all that appealing, and it's definitely not the type of book that I normally read. The book's description didn't really resonate with me either. I think I must have read a review or two that made the book sound interesting, but I'm not even entirely sure about that.

Having said all that, I am quite happy that I picked up HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA because it's unlike any book I've ever read. And I mean that in the best possible way! I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say I loved this book because I don't know that I am intelligent enough to fully understand everything the author was trying to accomplish. However, I can say that I found the book very entertaining and I really appreciated the story and the author's writing style.

At it's simplest, HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA tells the story of a poor young boy who eventually becomes "filthy rich" is rising Asia. He gains his wealth through a fairly interesting, and increasingly scarce, commodity -- water. As he builds his fortune, his mind (and heart) are always on a "pretty girl" whom he met and fell in love with as a young boy. Throughout the course of their lives, their paths continue to cross and they each find small moments of happiness.

I purposely gave very little details about HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA because I do think it's best for each reader to experience this novel on their own. That might seem to like an easy way out, but I promise you it's not. What made HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA so darn special is the way the author presented these characters' stories. The novel is written in the form of a self-help book (which I guess are extremely popular among young people in Asia right now), and the presentation style is rather tongue-in-cheek. And get this, the entire book is written in second person with the main character being "you."

I mentioned earlier that I'm pretty sure I didn't "get' everything about this novel. On one level, I enjoyed the life long love story between the two main characters, and I liked how the author showed how their ambition played a huge role in their success. The story was intriguing and poignant, and it was a unique twist on a rags to riches story.

However, it was that "next" level of the book where I think I might have missed a few things. In addition to telling these characters' stories, this novel addressed some major issues that are occurring in "rising Asia" right now. And this is where my ignorance of world politics and economics came into play because I didn't get all of the references. On the plus side, I do think I learned a thing or two about all of the change going on over there.

I really can't express just how smart the writing in HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA is. Ms. Hamid is an outstanding writer and I was truly blown away by this novel in so many ways. He managed to accomplish so much with this story, and frankly, I'm a little amazed by how he even came up with the premise for it.

There is no doubt that HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA would make an interesting book club selection. There is so much to discuss about the characters as well as the changes currently taking place in "rising Asia." The reading guide has eleven questions that will most definitely challenge you. Some of the themes you might want to explore include ambition, morality, love, passion, redemption, forgiveness, politics, religion, and mortality.

Overall, I am very glad that I read HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA despite feeling as if I weren't quite smart enough for it!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I was offered this book on audio and passed because the title was not compelling AT ALL! Then of course after that I started hearing all this ruckus about the book. Figures. I may still try to get my hands on the audio at some point.

bermudaonion said...

Sounds interesting but a book has to be very well written before the second person point of view works for me. I'll have to think about it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I too passed because of the title!

Beth F said...

I almost passed because of the title too! But well worth the read.