At age sixteen, Fahad is forced to spend the summer at the family's feudal estate in upcountry, Pakistan. Rafik, his father, wants to toughen up his sensitive boy, to teach him about power, duty, family—o make him a man. He enlists Ali, a local teenager, in this project, hoping his presence will prove instructive. Instead, over the course of one hot, indolent season, attraction blooms between the two boys, and Fahad finds himself seduced by the wildness of the land and its inhabitants: the people, who revere and revile his father in turn; cousin Mousey, who lives alone with a man he calls his manager; and most of all, Ali, who threatens to unearth all that is hidden.
Decades later, Fahad is living abroad when he receives a call from his mother summoning him home. His return will force him to face the past.
The first half of Other Names for Love is the best half ... Soomro writes clean, vivid sentences and this novel has a certain elegance, but it lacks a worldview and the kind of drilling insights that would take it to another level ... I did not stop, once, to pencil a curse word of admiration in the margins, which sometimes means nothing but sometimes means a lot. When the second half begins to drift, the absence of electric drive-by observation and intellection becomes more apparent.
The novel deftly captures the way the past—both memories and inheritances—informs the present and the future. Despite its concern for the past though, the narrative never feels stalled, moving forward with urgent and emotionally resonant prose ... A deft examination of sexuality, history, and father-son relationships.