This slim, beautifully written book is written as a monologue spoken by a young man, born and living in Pakistan, but educated in America. He is telling his life story to an American stranger in Lahore.
This outwardly simple book is packed full of ideas. There are themes of loss and grief, but also of nostalgia, of the dangerous slide of both countries and individuals who lose wealth and influence but retain the pride of earlier days, best illustrated in the lines "As I have already told you I did not grow up in poverty. But I did grow up with a poor boys sense of longing, in my case not for what my family had never had, but for hat we had had and lost. Some of my relatives held onto imagined memories the way homeless people hold onto lottery tickets. Nostalgia was their crack cocaine, if you will, and my childhood was littered with the consequences of their addiction: unserviceable debts, squabbles over inheritances, the odd alcoholic or suicide."
There is a sophisticated analysis of the imperial nature of America, with discussion of how the brightest and best of the developing world are trained as "janissaries", isolated from their cultural roots without fully being assimilated into their masters these child soldiers have nothing to do but work or fight for their adopted nation.
This novel is not political dialectic, it is intensely personal, and that is why it works so well. It encompasses a repeatedly thwarted love affair, which is drawn wonderfully well and a brilliant sense of place.
The reader knows, throughout the book that they are not getting everything from the aptly named Changez; he is an unreliable narrator because of what is omitted, but what he tells you feels true, intense and is not the usual, superficial analyses.
A book with real depth.