ON FIRST IMPRESSION, Other Names for Love appears to be yet another novel in which a young gay boy—in this case, a British Pakistani one—grows up misunderstood and has a difficult relationship with his old-school father. And yet, this impression rapidly shifts when, in chapter two, the novel begins to tell things from the father’s point of view. Right away the novel reveals itself to be far more interesting than expected.
When the novel opens, Fahad is being dragged back to the Pakistani village where his father, Rafik, grew up and holds a position of power in the government. This desire to have Fahad spend a summer in the village is an attempt by his father to “toughen him up.” To Fahad, who has spent a great deal of time in London, his father is “a cannonball, an avalanche, something giant crashing through the jungle,” and the village is the most backwater of places. Even Karachi would be preferable, he thinks. Yet there seems to be no way of escaping his father, whose voice and influence seep through even the walls of the train they’re journeying on together.