H. M. Naqvi‘s Home Boy is the story of three Pakistani men in New York, describing their lives as they intertwine and mesh ever tighter in the aftermath of 9/11. We have all three possible classes of Pakistani-Americans: one born and raised in Jersey, an intellectual atheist who drinks too much and a new immigrant agog at the New World. Thrown together in the churning maelstrom that is New York, the three rapidly become friends and get to know each others’ families, complete with old-fashioned patriarchs and all.
Our protagonist is an aficionado of Literature, who turns his love of Shakespeare into an asset and applies for a banking job on Wall St., of all places. When the recession hits, he’s one of the first to go. Disconsolate, he rides a cab and realizes, in a garish parody of all that is stereotypically South Asian, that he wants to become a cabbie. The cabbie is a fellow expatriate who’s been looking for a heir to take over the family business, so to speak. A deal is forged and our Wall St. banker enrolls in taxi school and becomes a bonafide cabbie.
9/11 strikes and nothing is the same again. Driving to a friend’s house in his cab late one night, the neighbours call the FBI, alarmed by the sight of three Pakistani men disappearing into a house in the wee hours of the night. They get arrested and thrown into the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Big Apple’s version of The Black Hole of Calcutta. Our hero is freed from gaol when his story checks out, but he decides he’s had enough of the Promised Land and checks out on the first plane back to Karachi.
The novel is funny, giving you a real taste of what life would be like if your forefathers had left the Northwest Frontier Provinces for the New World. Pick this one up for a quick and enjoyable read.