Just when you think it's not possible to read a debut novel that offers something fresh, a book comes along that catches you off-guard. Part of this off-kilter feeling, I suspect, came bundled with Mastras' biography, listing various television credits for genre offerings that suggest a novel would lack heft. But Fidali's Way is a lushly written, panoramic view of the hills of Pakistan, the violent conflicts nestled within this far-flung locale and the damaged souls of its main characters - especially Nick Sunder, an American traveler looking for a sliver of meaning after a life chasing materialistic dreams. That simple goal seems to crash down with the brutal murder of his current lover and his escape to the village of Gilkamosh after police suspicion prompts a horrifying interrogation. Nick is the story's linchpin, but its soul is Aysha, a beautiful young woman whose quest to study and practice medicine puts her at odds with her deeply fundamentalist community. The caldron stirs its ingredients to a boiling point, producing climaxes of violence that leave impact lasting like a brand placed on unwelcoming skin.
Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction every month for The Baltimore Sun. Visit her Web site at www.sarahweinman.com.
"Western backpackers and Islamic fundamentalists meet in this literary thriller set in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan. Nick Sunder is an American dropout from a successful law career. While in South Asia, he falls in with a beautiful French girl, Yvette, a fellow traveler. The only problem is her on-and-off boyfriend, Simon, making for a three person relationship that tests Nick's open-mindedness.
Conditions on the ground change quickly, however, when Yvette turns up at the morgue. Suddenly Nick's biggest problem is no longer where to score premium hashish. After he is dragged into a fetid cell for questioning by the police, Nick decides to test his luck and make an escape from the country through the tribal areas, a place where foreigners are not exactly welcome.
In this exciting and emotional tale, author George Mastras does not portray Pakistan as a mere exotic locale. In the first half of the novel, the narrative alternates between Nick's unenviable situation in Peshawar, and the budding romance between Aysha and Kazim, two teenagers in the mountain village of Gilkamosh. Kazim is recruited into the muhajideen, but Aysha wants to become a doctor. These worlds inevitably collide as Nick makes his escape to India.
Fidali's Way is a smart, pulse-quickening novel with a true feel for everyday street life in South Asia. . . [R]eaders will appreciate the local color while remaining riveted to their seats."
"'Fidali's Way' by George Mastras is an excellent novel that takes place among the people and terrain of [the mountainous border regions straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan]. Reading it will provide insight into the attitudes and customs of the region."
Joe Mielke, Traverse City Record-Eagle, May 2, 2009
Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy, a blockbuster that touched millions of hearts all over the world, celebrates its 20th anniversary. Vikas Swarup’s Q & A, the book which put India once again on the world map (if not directly, indirectly through its screen adaptation Slumdog Millionaire) is still reeling under the Oscar fever. Rumour is rife about Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle assembling his Slumdog team to make a new film on Mumbai and he has already bought the rights of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta for the purpose. A book, which The Economist has described as stories of slum dwellers, dancing girls, hit men and poets, all of whom have come to Bombay to make it big. The reviewer calls it an outstanding tale of the exhilarating city told in a clear but non-judgmental voice and going by the fact that Boyle has picked it up, one can believe it to be true.
What is the connection between the three? Slums of course! And just when we thought we had enough of slums, came along Fidali’s Way by George Mastras — a thriller, a travelogue and a novel, all rolled into one.
The story unfolds through the main protagonist, Nicholas Sunder, a hot shot American lawyer, who gives up a flourishing career to go backpacking in search of that illusive ‘something’. He finds it too, at Gilkamosh, a remote village in Kashmir at the cost of his identity, his career and his country.
George Mastras is a true storyteller. 'Fidali's Way' completely transported me - as great art can do. I don't consider myself a voracious reader, but these pages flew by for me. The author's bio mentions that he spent a considerable amount of time trekking throughout the region where the story takes place (the Himalayas), and this comes through in the writing. His observational sense of the essential human nature of people from both the east and west - how they interact, understand and can confuse one another - makes me believe that he has lived many of these situations first hand.... If you're interested in experiencing an informed, articulate, insiders view of The East, told through a great story - I definitely recommend this book.
Michael Rababy, author of American Bachelor