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A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir

A Small Fortune (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Rosie Dastgir

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6523183,505 (3.6)9
Title:A Small Fortune
Authors:Rosie Dastgir
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2012), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Pakistani, Islamic, fiction, religion

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A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir (2012)


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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a story of one family: Harris and his wife are divorced and he receives a sizable settlement from the sale of their former home that he isn't quite sure what to do with. His only daughter lives with a roommate in London and, unbeknownst to him, has dropped out of medical school. His cousins need financial help; another cousin helps him with his business and cares for him during a health crisis; he begins to date a sympathetic woman and gets wrapped up in a business deal with an old acquaintance of questionable character.

The key to this otherwise ordinary family story is that Harris is a Pakistani immigrant; his daughter is England born and bred; the other members of his family are some of each and their heritage and particular cultural habits inform their actions in this story.

While not a great book I certainly found it worth reading -- and not because it gave me a glimpse into an unfamiliar culture, although it did that, too. The author, Rosie Dastgir, did an excellent job of drawing each character, their interactions, their faithfulness to their own ideals and, finally, the lessons learned and the personal growth experienced. ( )
  karen_o | Jul 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The saga of an Anglo-Pakistani family, this book shows how family members face their demons under the premise of acquiring some of a small divorce settlement. The prodigal daughter has quit medical school, a nephew is falling in with a dangerous crowd, and a brother is desperate for help. At the center of the family is Harris, who is trying desperately to reconstruct his family and to reconstruct happier times. Harris has lost interest in the life he once relished. When he receives his divorce settlement he is torn asunder by the competing needs of his family members.

While the blurb and title suggested that the book was going to focus on Harris's efforts to get rid of his money, that really is not the major issue. Money is the background, really a premise to get the family members to work out some long-festering problems. This was an interesting enough book. I particularly enjoyed watching the relationship develop between Harris and his new love, the professor. Other parts of the story were more predictable. Still, a well-written tale of a believable family. ( )
  lahochstetler | Jan 20, 2013 |
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who has extended family from any culture. It made me laugh and cry. Characters in this book are beautifully drawn, and I felt I could see the characters spring from the page.
  Debspage | Sep 19, 2012 |
Harris, a devout Muslim with an extended family that crosses Britain and Pakistan, has just received his final divorce settlement check from his ex-wife, a snappish English woman with whom he fathered a daughter who now attends university. Called on from all corners of his family to provide financial assistance, Harris rashly doles out this small fortune to the least deserving of his cousins. What follows is a trickling down of his unfortunate mistake, a landslide that pulls on the dual strings of religious obligation and familial duty. Only when Harris' daughter and her cousin step in, in very different ways, can the tide of misfortune turn.

With a cunning talent for pitting the generations against one another, Dastgir tells a story that is both classic in its roots and fervently modern in its portrayal of a Pakistani family at odds with itself and its surroundings. And while the sympathy and understanding seem to lie most with the younger generation, it is the elders of the family that appear to have the most endurance in the face of all that comes at them.

But what is special Ms. Dastgir's novel is her classical emphasis on one small event (or even a small fortune, as it were) rippling out into a murderous tide; as with the real things, the calm will only come after the worst has passed. For Harris' family, no resolution will be simple but, like any story rooted in Greek tragedy, everyone will have a lesson to learn. This is a very smart novel with multiple but clear perspectives, one that has a sort of shyness to it; Dastgir does not grandstand, she merely seeks to inform, and she does so with a heartbreaking kind of clarity that would otherwise elude any and all of her characters.

Lauren Cartelli
www.theliterarygothamite.com ( )
  laurscartelli | Sep 6, 2012 |
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The house where Harris lived was on a hill. After four years in the North of England, he had become adept at hill-starts, managing the steep gradients in that part of the world with a deft combination of clutch control and hand-brake operation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159448810X, Hardcover)

An entertaining debut novel that explores the lives of an extended Pakistani family—all with a gently humorous touch and fond but wry eye.


Harris, the presumed patriarch of his large extended family in both England and Pakistan, has unexpectedly received a “small fortune” from his divorce settlement with an English woman: £53,000. As a devout Muslim, Harris views this sum as a “burden of riches” that he must unload on someone else as quickly as possible. But deciding which relative to give it to proves to be a burden of its own, and soon he has promised it both to his extremely poor cousins in Pakistan and to his Westernized, college-student daughter. Then, in a rash bout of guilt and misunderstanding, Harris signs the entire sum away to the least deserving, most prosperous cousin of all. This solves none of his problems and creates many more, exacerbating a tricky web of familial debt and obligation on two sides of the world, until the younger generation steps in to help. 


With insight, affection, and a great gift for character and story, Dastgir immerses us in a rich, beautifully drawn immigrant community and complex extended family. She considers the challenges between relatives of different cultural backgrounds, generations, and experiences—and the things they have to teach one another. A Small Fortune offers an affectionate and affecting look at class, culture, and the heartbreak of misinterpretation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:44 -0400)

Resolving to give away a divorce settlement to his most deserving relative, devout Muslim Harris, the presumed head of a large extended family in England and Pakistan, rashly bequeaths his fortune to a prosperous cousin, complicating a difficult web of familial debt and obligation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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