Cover Image: Other Names for Love

Other Names for Love

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Member Reviews

5 "fathers, sons, cousins, brothers, lovers" stars !!

My thanks to Netgalley, the author and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux for an e-copy. This was released July 2022 and I am providing my honest review.

I was so wonderfully immersed in the lives of an upper middle class Pakistani Muslim family and the repetition of narratives amidst the decline of not just their power and wealth but of ways of being in a fairly rigid and patriarchal society. The sociological insights and psychological understandings here are immensely interesting and intricate. The tale is gauzy with issues of recollection, memory, ego, drama, spirituality and politics all causing degrees of warping that brilliantly depict the complexity in mens' lives.

Underneath all of this though are how the natural courses of love play out and both enrich and damage. Shame and pride, convention, beauty and the stories we tell ourselves to survive are often very far from what truly happened and transpired.

This is a complex and effective novel about masculine energies, ambitions and ways of being in a world that is often unjust and dangerous. The writing is deliciously inconsistent, descriptive and effective. Quite simply, an amazing first novel that filled me with compassion, understandings and a deeper appreciation for what truly is important in a life....

Bravo Mr. Soomro and I was so happy to read that you have found a masculine love of your own...
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What there is to say about fathers and their gay sons...well, that's just an ocean of story without any limits that I'm aware of. Fathers and sons...disappointments...sadness and silence, rage and screaming...all and none and more. It's a relationship most sons have, even if sometimes it's a relationship with an absence or a cipher. It's always going to resonate with fathers because of the terror of being inadequate, as their own fathers were, and with sons for the same reason.

This short, powerful read is the kind of take on the evergreen that leaves the reader not sure where his sympathies lie. Rafik is not really sure what the hell to do with Fahad; and equally, Fahad is not sure how to take Rafik's overbearing attempts to induct him into a life and lifestyle inimical to him. Not solely heterosexuality...the powerful political and economic family that Rafik comes from and wants to perpetuate.

I don't suppose anyone reading this is surprised that this is the crux of the story.

What transpires, and how we respond to it, is all down to the manner in which this eternal and evergreen tale is told. I wasn't always sure I liked the third-person narrator's abrupt shifts from Rafik's to Fahad's point of view. It's effective, in the sense that it conveys the broken relationship and poor communication between father and son. It's not always pleasant, though. It can feel jarring, and while I accept that was Author Soomro's intent, it's not always a positive service to the story.

What the family saga, no matter how compact one makes it, always does is spread the emotional focus of a story. Mousey, Rafik's cousin and rival for control over their feudal family estate, is limned deftly in relatively few words. His presence is more air than flesh...and then Ali, the local of Rafik's family estate, the one whom he entrusts with manning-up his fey son, is from the moment he appears a fleshly figure, outlined in the light of young love and intense desire. And, like those things, as fleetingly there but always, always part of one's mind, heart, body.

The beautiful as well as beastly problems of family, then, are our roadmap. And their inevitable end. There's no one gets out of this family alive, my father once said to me; I've never been sure if it was humor, threat, or sad truth he spoke. And so it is with all families. I'm totally sure the events of this novel...and its multivarious progenitors, from Lawrence's Sons and Lovers back to Balzac's Sarrasine...took place in slightly different form somewhere, sometime. The gift Author Soomro offers us is that he found the uniquely, specifically Pakistani iteration of this deviant's tale, and deftly turned it into the Platonic solid of the story.

While the son never has a father he can relate to, he never gives his father any kind of solidity by denying him a future. A lot of what Rafik can't reconcile himself to is the way the world changes, has changed. It's a grandparent's trick, to turn that terror of loss into an anchor of immanence. Rafik and Fahad don't ever see the world through the same lenses. (Where did those glasses come from?) They, like real fathers and sons, never wonder "what can I do?" but bemoan "what could I have done?"

A story of great affecting power, told elegantly, with honest sadness and truthful anger. Sounds like a great way to spend a winter's afternoon reading.
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The story is interesting enough. The storytelling is remarkably conventional. The scenic details, beats, and dialogue all felt deeply familiar to me Each sentence landed solidly. It felt as if the author decided to write a story in 2022 that was in the style of E.M. Forster. These aspects of the novel will delight many.
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Source of book: NetGalley (thank you)
Relevant disclaimers: None
Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author.

Probably not the best time for me to have read some reasonably heavy litfic about … like … queer people with complicated relationships with their fathers returning to their places of birth. Ahem.

Other Names for Love is told from the perspective of both father and son. It opens with the son, Fahad, as a teenager, being taken by his father, Rafik, to stay at Abad, the family estate in rural Pakistan—a piece of land that Rafik has painstakingly developed from jungle and now runs rather like a Medieval fiefdom. While at Abad, Rafik introduces Fahad to the son of a neighbour, a more conventionally masculine boy called Ali, in the hope of encouraging Fahad to be more masculine himself. Meanwhile, in the present, Fahad, who has established a life for himself in the west with his long-term partner Alex, is once again called back to Abad, this time to oversee its sale as Rafik slips further and further into infirmity.

As you can probably tell from that description, this is a book of themes. Some of them—not being super familiar with political corruption in rural Pakistan—I was less personally well-placed to entangle than others, especially when the book is regularly jumping time and perspective. Of course, this is my ignorance, not in any way the fault of the novel. Where I did connect, however, was careful exploration of identity, masculinity, queerness, family, and loss.

The writing is gorgeous, but the book itself has a fragmentary quality, partly, I think, deliberately so as past and present bend inexorably towards each other, and Fahad’s journey of self-discovery with Ali offers a dark parallel to Rafik’s future loss of self. Unfortunately, for me, I wished the sections had been more than merely thematically integrated—in particular, there’s an interim chapter where Fahad has fled to London and, presenting openly as a gay man, has an awkward dinner with his father, but this didn’t feel enough on its own to bridge the two halves. Essentially, the book excels in the details, but comes across (or came across to me) as somewhat woolly in terms of the broader narrative structure.

Even so, there was much I admired here and much that spoke to me. Other Names of Love is a deeply melancholy book, about the inescapability of the past and its wounds, but I guess, for better or worse, I was in the right place for it. Ho hum.

“It seemed to [Fahad] that […] he couldn’t remember a moment when he hadn’t thought of Abad, memories of the place shimmering through every memory since he’d left: the beaten brass of its fields, its sky silvered like a platter, its searing breeze. But to remember what wasn’t his, to remember something he didn’t have and could never have again, it was a different remembering, it was remembering loss, loss that recurred endlessly…”
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Such a beautifully written book! I enjoyed the multiple perspectives but did find myself favoring one over the other. The writing was atmospheric and gorgeous and I wanted it to be a 5 star read. There were some things about it that I didn’t love but overall it is a solid B.
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This read has great representation and covers some difficult themes. It was overall an enjoyable read. Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for granting me access to an e-arc.
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Special thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I found this book fascinating to read. The topics it focused on were definitely unique to me, not just about the character, but the region and expectations.

I wish that the writing had been more cohesive, but I would recommend this book.
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This is fine, lyrical, incisive work by a new writer. Dodging expectations and overstatement, it discusses sensitive topics, notably - given its Pakistani setting - the issue of homosexuality. Issues of family and responsibility, poverty and power, rural lives and development are dealt with coolly, dispassionately yet with intensity. Impressive.
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Sadly, this book was not for me. I did not find myself invested in either the characters or the storyline. I was also confused about the storyline much of the time. This may have been a case of bad timing, as I read this with a string of other books that didn't grab me. I hope it works better for other readers!
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"Other Names For Love" is a tale of masculinity, family obligations and history. It is a novel divided into three parts, first set in rural Pakistan and then London. Fahed's a young man who's been forced to follow his father into the Pakistani countryside, as his father aims to pass down his family business and legacy to him one day. Amongst the rains, the heat and the chaos of the countryside, Fahad learns who he can trust and love, until one day, it is not enough and flees to London. 
I admit I enjoyed the first part of the book far more than the other two thirds. We alternate between Fahad's perspective and his father's, Rafik. The reader is catapulted into the warm weather of Abad, its street full of children and vendors, the yells of the crowd and the fields being worked on all around. Fahad's not used to any of this, and his masculinity, his personality, is not what his father had imagined for him. He's too soft, too naive and Fahad knows he could never marry a nice girl like he's supposed to. 
Soomro writes poetically, in a way that reminded me a bit of Ocean Vuong, and if you like stories that span years and focus on familial themes, this is the novel for you.
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This was heartbreaking and wild and intense and really slow at times and taking place in two different places and times and honestly, a lot going on. Great narration; I read this on audiobook. A lot of the writing feels very surreal or dreamlike, especially in the first half, but the second half feels more sharper and feels more like it's about Relationships. It's relatively short, coming in at 256 pages, and I wish the second half was longer and the first half was a little shorter. I think this author is going to go on to write books that I will like a lot more in the future, so, four stars.
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I very much wanted to like this but I found the progression so, so slow and the dialogue very choppy. Entirely possible that this is a me issue and it was intentional but, either way, it's not something I enjoyed. Other people may and I wish them all the luck and joy in the world.
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We follow the life of Fahad, as he deals with his father's expectations, coming to terms with his sexuality, understanding what family & commitment mean, and dealing with the burden of the perception of shame. Based loosely on the author's experiences in Jalalabad, with his political farmer grandfather (who admittedly is kinder and more intelligent than Fahad's father's depiction) - I learned something new about the crushing weight of expectations & the life of political farmers in Pakistan. An interesting read, no doubt!
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the premise was certainly compelling but the execution wasn't particularly convincing which is a pity as the story has potential and Soomro is clearly a promising author.
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Soomro tells a story about masculinity and family between Pakistan and Britain: Split in three parts, we meet our protagonist Fahad when he is 16 years old and traveling with his father Rafik to the family's estate in rural Pakistan. While shy Fahad loves theater and tends to be a loner, his father is keen to introduce him into the family business: Coming from a background of influential farmers and politicians, Rafik is well versed in power play, and letting the reader wonder how to morally judge this man - who brought wealth to the region, but is also a ruthless advocate of his own interest - is probably the most interesting part of the novel. Fahad befriends Ali, a local boy, while his father Rafik dives into a power struggle with his cousin Mousey. After a faithful incident, teenage Fahad is sent back home.

Part two and three are set 15 years later respectively and slowly untangle the family mystery surrounding the reasons for Rafik's downfall: Fahad, now living in London with his boyfriend and working as a writer, is called back to Pakistan after his father has squandered the family's land and money. And of course, Fahad also aims to find Ali...

While Fahad dominates the story, the third person narrator constantly switches his focus from father to son, thus revealing what has shaped the thinking of the two men. I have a hunch that the political aspects mentioned (corruption, lack of education and almost feudal structures in the poor countryside) are even more intriguing for people who are more familiar with Pakistan, as Soomro takes on the task to illuminate the dynamics within a family that is caught between power, morality, loyalty, and fear. The men in this novel constantly wear maks (the mask is even mentioned as an explicit motif), and yes, the idea is used much like in THE classic about gay men and societal appearances: Confessions of a Mask.

Still, I felt like the story was sometimes too timid, it didn't develop enough drive and punch - somehow the quiet elegance of the storytelling got in the way of writing a truly absorbing tale. The novel also shows some typical debut flaws (e.g.: Fahad breaking his glasses (that were never mentioned before!) and getting new ones in the countryside - a more obvious metaphor probably wasn't available). Still, I was intrugued by the story about two men who grew up in different worlds, who love each other and still fail each other because of the cards life has dealt them and because of their own limitations.

Taymour Soomro clearly has interesting stories to tell, and I am extremely curious to read his next effort.
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Overall, I thought this book was so gorgeous. The prose was vivid and poignant, Fahad was such a fantastic character and the other story elements were impeccable as well. I was hooked from the first page. Definitely recommend. 
THINGS I LIKED
The first line/scene was perfect
I love the suspense and how action is written all the way through the book
The descriptions are so rich and pretty
I really like the structural choices. They felt so deliberate- like rarely naming Fahad and just referring to him as the boy in Rafik's POV 
So many of the sentences were so poetic too like they gave me chilsl
I like how I didn't know who was "good" and who was "bad" and everyone sort of sucked in their own way but also had redeeming qualities. 
The second and third parts were slightly more ambiguous but I still enjoyed them 

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE
I was sort of confused about what exactly was going on for a little bit at the beginning, but once it was explained, I understood. 
Exposition leaned a little bit too much in the opposite of infodumping
 I didn't realize it was dual POV at first and had to reread the second chapter because of that.
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Know that this novel is less about toxic masculinity and romance between men than it is about family and reconciliation.  Fahad's father Rafik thought he could "toughen" his son up over the course of a summer in rural Pakistan but he was wrong, at least in one way.  Fahad meets and falls for Ali but then events force him back to London where he establishes his own vibrant life while Rafik becomes more of a politician until he hits a financial wall.  The second half of the book sees Fahad back in Pakistan to bail his parents out by selling the family farm.  Will he find Ali again and if so, what will he find?  No spoilers from me. This is a heavier read than I expected but it was also a better one.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Insightful.
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1.0

I am really sad, reluctant and disappointed to be rating this book so low, given how deep and personal the themes are, but I have to be completely honest with myself. I did not enjoy this book at all, I found it boring, repetitive and lifeless - and I hate having to say that about a debut author, but sadly it’s just my true feelings. 

The prose is, frankly, disjointed and confusing. It feels like the author doesn’t have a voice and is trying to mimic the tone of another author, it probably isn’t the case but that’s just honestly how it felt. The prose was terribly robotic, there was no emotion in it and it just didn’t feel like the author knew what he was writing about. And this could have been done stylistically, however it wasn’t executed well and just made the book feel longer than it should have been. 

The characters are lifeless, they barely have a single emotional and cohesive thought, and whenever they talked, it didn’t feel real. The characters are very human, I will admit that but the way they are portrayed felt like they didn’t have any connection to each other or the world around them. Some times, I didn’t even know who was who cause I didn’t care enough about them to distinguish them. And the way the conversations were written were horribly confusing, they would talk about one thing but then move on to another and it left me feeling more disjointed than understanding. They also seem to lack any morals or personality, had they been written with any of those, I think the book would have been bearable.

The whole book was just terribly boring. It may have been me, and it may be because I’m probably not in the right place to read it, but it just felt like the plot drags. The way it was written felt like the author had no idea what he was writing and it felt like a train of thought - and if this was the case, then I don’t think I was the right person to read this unfortunately. 

I wish the author well but I hope they review their future books more closely and maybe make more edits. This book felt like a first draft which is truly a shame.
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Taylor Soomro's debut novel takes on toxic masculinity and packs a punch.  The writing here is a bit hard to follow at times, but the overall message hits its mark.
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4.5 It's been a while since I've come across a novel with writing as beautiful as the prose in this book. I didn't actually cry while reading this story, but it ignited such a deep sadness in my chest, it was almost destabilizing. I felt a longing for a made-up city that I've never visited, and a nostalgia for an adolescence that I'd never lived. It is truly a beautiful masterpiece. 

I do think that the synopsis on Goodreads is a little misleading. While the MCs relationship with Ali is crucial to the story, this is not a romance novel. It is much more about family and politics than it is about love. The most important and developed relationship is the one between Fahad and his father. This is in no way a bad thing; in fact the story was much more powerful and poignant than I was anticipating. However, readers should not pick up this book expecting a whirlwind summer romance, but rather something much more deep, complex and personal.  

The one critique I have about this book is the timeline. It splits almost exactly at the halfway mark between the MCs teenagerhood and adulthood. While I understand why Soomro formatted the novel this way, considering how equally important both stages of the character's life are, it makes it a little difficult to really attach yourself to the characters. Right when you finally feel connected to Fahad at age sixteen, there's a huge time jump decades into the future and you're left feeling a little throw off. And then, because the story is now set so much later in the MC's life, you almost have to restart the whole process of getting to know him. He is now an almost completely different person and you can't exactly pick up right where you left off the chapter before. I feel that the book should have been overall longer to give the reader time to settle in with the characters, or there should have been a stronger emphasis on one of the time settings so as to not interrupt the reader's experience. 

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book and I am so excited for it to come out so that I can share this work of art with everyone. 

Source: NetGalley
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