I felt intensely grateful for the high level of granular political—now historical—detail in Nawaaz Ahmed’s debut, Radiant Fugitives, a sprawling, compelling novel ... Thanks to Ahmed’s vivid prose and his capacity to write heated dialogue, his dive into late-2000s politics is anything but dull ... Radiant Fugitives is a systems novel, not a domestic one ... His quick point-of-view switches and brusque manner of delivering backstory swiftly make it clear that he is less invested in any one character than in the larger questions he examines through them ... Political fiction, Ahmed seems to realize, has no need to fear granularity or retreat into interiority. Writing down details, as any diary-keeper will tell you, is personal no matter what.
... an expansive family saga enriched by brilliantly wrought characters and a dazzling lyricism ... Ahmed has made the bold and unique decision to frame the novel with Ishraaq, Seema’s unborn son, as its narrator, and the result yields a voice unlike almost any other narrator I’ve encountered. The choice allows Ahmed great flexibility with point of view ... Throughout the novel, Ahmed digs deep into his characters’ memories to enchantingly blend the past and present, while modulating the intricacies of their relationships with care and mastery ... Ahmed writes equally potently of estrangement ... Radiant Fugitives paints a broad portrait, at turns hopeful and despairing, of a family—and a country—testing its capacity for change.
First-time author Nawaaz Ahmed writes the way an impressionist paints. He ensures the scenes unfold before the reader’s eyes ... A bold, sweeping book ... Ahmed’s prose is imaginative and poetic, bringing readers into a week in the life of the Hussein women ... Ahmed accomplishes a rare feat ... Let us hope Ahmed is working on his next book because he is a rare talent, and the memorable ending of Radiant Fugitives is proof of his gift.
Ishraaq’s narration, sometimes addressed to Nafeesa, is mostly a distraction. There is little to distinguish his voice from any third-person omniscient narrative, and you quickly learn not to pay much attention, for instance, as he refers to Seema primarily by name and occasionally as 'my mother.' For a while this appears to be a fairly conventional story of a family confronting old rifts and even older loves, its boldest act to give us a deeply religious Muslim character. That is, until the novel jumps back even further, to 2003, when Seema meets Bill at an Iraq war protest. Ishraaq’s tone becomes more energized, but its intimacy falls away as he follows Seema through a series of political campaigns that culminate in her disillusionment with Obama. Ahmed doesn’t quite manage to tie this disillusionment to Seema’s abandonment by her father, and it’s a relief when the novel returns to just the trio of women ... We are to a greater extent enmeshed in a very large world with myriad forces acting upon us in ways large and small. Isn’t it time for American writers to face up to the challenge of reflecting that? The flaws of Radiant Fugitives aside, we can still stand back and applaud Ahmed, a writer of vast ambition, who wants nothing less than to reshape the American novel.
Ahmed’s prose is full of close-up particulars, but the novel’s sensibility is operatic and transcendent and searching ... An audacious novel ... Radiant Fugitives is thinky, but it doesn’t feel constructed so much as miraculously found ... Although kaleidoscopic and contemporary, Radiant Fugitives also hearkens back to more traditional novels in which subtle, complex details are a source of delight, rather than something to be pared away to render meaning transparent.
[A] dazzling, heartrending debut ... Ahmed brilliantly maps the tension between the three women with emotional acuity, and as Seema’s pregnancy unfolds, Ahmed slowly builds to a showdown, culminating in a shattering and unforgettable conclusion. This is a gem.
This rich, unafraid debut novel offers a masterclass in perspective-taking and will leave readers deep in their feelings ... Ahmed’s impressive insight into his characters’ lives is lifted up by a lovely use of intuitive and beautiful language ... Showing his characters honestly and authentically in the full ranges of their different and shared humanities succeeds in meaningful ways.
Ahmed's complex, ambitious debut is narrated by a fetus who has narrative art to spare ... The story unfolds in a confusing manner, with some intent to mislead ... Ahmed swings for the fences in this luminously intelligent, culturally magisterial debut.