Although historical events sweep into the characters' lives in a variety of devastating ways, this is ultimately a celebration of family and the sustaining power of love. With a sprawling cast of vividly drawn characters, most of whom must negotiate a dizzying array of religious, economic, and national boundaries, this powerful and important debut is a story for our time ... Essential for fans of literary fiction.
Arif Anwar’s first novel, The Storm, is a fascinating, ambitious work, stretching across decades and countries and capturing troubled moments in each ... Shahryar’s ties to the other characters in the novel and the strange ways in which their lives are connected form the central mystery of the book ... The segments set in Bangladesh are the most powerfully written, with a clear and definite authority ... We enjoy details that bring alive everyday life ... A powerful natural backdrop is home to all this, harsh yet majestic ... The world of Bangladesh is rife with contradictions ... Much of the charm and power of The Storm lies in negotiating this push and pull between the hero and the trickster, the magical and the mundane—and Anwar has handled it beautifully.
Arif Anwar's debut novel ... drills down to an almost microscopic viewpoint to explore Bangladesh’s struggle for independence through intimate, interconnected stories that span 60 years. The result is less like a catastrophic flood and more like an illustration of the butterfly effect ... The Storm ends up as a richly realized, instructive tale about what to do with people set adrift by major disturbances, and about filtering broad strokes of storm data to study individual people who follow some rules and break others to find security and do what they think is right.
Anwar constructs his novel like a cyclone, beginning at the onset of the 1970 storm, leaping forward to Shar in 2004 and then catapulting back to 1946 Calcutta. Laced with symbols and mysterious mementos...chapters swell to suspenseful endings that dovetail with each other. Anwar describes his settings in poetic detail, and readers will wish the dialogue were as well wrought ... From visa troubles and Hindu-Muslim relations to child custody and starvation, Anwar tackles the gamut of modern challenges with style and care.
Arif Anwar has deftly woven together the lives of ten major and several secondary characters to recount not only their love stories but also the lifestyles of Bangladeshis and their country’s tumultuous history .... While the time-switching adds to the intrigue, much use of telling and summary is utilized in the narrative. However, the elegiac quality of the prose is a pleasure to read. Anwar’s PhD level education and work experience with BRAC and UNICEF show in this historically and culturally detailed novel. The open-endedness of some storylines might hint at a sequel. Highly recommended.
How all these stories interconnect comes clear as the novel hits its crescendo when the layers of secrets, untold truths and mysteries ultimately reveal themselves. While the novel keeps jumping through time and space, Anwar moves the stories briskly along as each thread hits its own crisis point ... the narration is occasionally overwhelmed by the accounting of so much time, flattening the emotional intensity in places ... Anwar achieves his final goal as the novel eventually pulls at one’s heartstrings as the 'vicious cycle of life' becomes evident.
The narrative stretches from the 1940s to the 2000s and from the South Asian subcontinent to the US ... Going back and forth skillfully across those three major events, the storytelling adds more connecting dots each time to the various characters ... This non-linearity creates excellent pace and tension, which Anwar never loses by revealing details only when absolutely necessary ... Specifically with the Japanese occupation of Burma, Anwar's attention to detail shows the thoroughness of his research. Using the boat and the storm as recurring symbols is also a nice touch. That said, beyond that, the language throughout is not descriptive enough for the richness of the settings and events being depicted ... In the end, The Storm is a first novel that, despite some inexplicable gaps and pat coincidences, must be applauded for its heart, urgency, and ambition.
This is an amazing, poignant debut that spans time and borders ... The Storm is vivid, descriptive, loud and liberating ... this novel is full of surprises, dark moments, devastating chaos and silent calms. The writing is emotive, descriptive, passionate and poignant.
[The Storm] blows a gust of ocean freshness through the predictable ranks of historical epics. Both for its lyrical prose and its intricate structure, the novel offers engagement and intrigue. There’s range here, originality, and a pleasing avoidance of melodramatic predictability ... Anwar works hard to avoid cliché, and often succeeds ... intelligence and empathy mark this first foray into fiction by Bangladeshi-born, Toronto-based Anwar. His novel is strikingly ambitious, but also persuasive and immersive. He’s one to watch.
In crystalline prose, Anwar tells stories that span continents and decades as his characters interconnect ... While deceit and cruelty occur, these stories are suffused with love and compassion that most often motivate action. A remarkable debut, in which fiction vividly portrays specific events in history.
Why Anwar shoved all these characters into one book is unclear: They would have done just fine each in their own respective novels. His prose doesn’t help matters. It is sometimes overwrought...and sometimes plainly lacking ... Still, Anwar has an engaging voice that will perhaps improve with practice. An overstuffed narrative and sloppy writing mar a novel that, despite it all, still has its moments.
Anwar’s excellent debut braids together brief moments of sacrifice and love in the lives of many characters across decades in South Asia and Washington D.C. ... Anwar expertly threads together these vignettes with others about the lives of an English doctor, a Japanese pilot, a Muslim couple caught in a ransom plot, and residents of Chittagong. This first novel will touch and astound readers.