Book Review: Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif

I haven’t read anything by Mohammed Hanif earlier, but when NYT says this is the book to be watched in the upcoming weeks, then one is undoubtedly intrigued.

And so I read the excerpt, liked it and picked up Red Birds By Mohammed Hanif.

And it turned out to be a weird book.


★★★ (3 out of 5)

The Storyline

Major Ellie, an American combat pilot crash lands in a desert and is wandering in the desert, hallucinating and thinking about his troubled marital life.

In the neighboring town a teenager Momo is always trying to come up with money-making schemes even when his earlier ones have failed. He has a dog friend Mutt, who is quite a philosopher itself, and the story is being told from its perspective too.

Momo’s brother Ali is missing, and he feels his father (who works for USAID) has sold him to the Americans, who used to stay in a ghost town ‘Hangar’ which is a little outside the village and is locked since 7 months since the bombing stopped.

Ellie meets Momo and is trying to get back home, and Momo and his family are in search of his brother and wants the hangar opened.

And in the middle of it all, there is an academic researcher in the village staying at Momo’s, who is trying research on young Muslim minds in the post-war scenario.

What I Think

If you read the excerpt of the book and even till the first half of the book, you are compelled into believing that this could turn out to be riveting novel and that something exciting would be happening in the second half.

But alas, the story turns head-on in the last 20% pages and in a bizarre way. I don’t want to put spoilers in here, but it was really out of the ordinary turn for any book.

The language of the book and the representation of characters are all good. The author makes a good observation about the war, the American Foreign Policy, Researchers and Academicians who tout to know all about the War and Muslim mindset and are essentially just collecting the per diem in the pretext.

There is a stark commentary and some smart-ass comments on War and the Americans, but that’s all there is to it in terms of substance.

One fails to understand if it is meant to be a sad tale or a satire or what. Maybe the author has tried to do a little too much with the story or lost his way in between.

Although, I did like the stories being told in the first person even from the dog’s perspective (especially from its perspective), although talking animals aren’t liked very much usually. And the portrayal of Momo’s mother, who is constantly cooking and harping about the evil Americans who kidnapped her boy and how she oscillates between different emotions.

Last Words

This book has been a let down for me, and although I liked the language and a few character portrayals, it didn’t make me understand what this book was supposed to be.

Maybe my brains are also fried after reading this book, or simply I am a Mutt too for not understanding it.

But if you are interested in war stories and commentary on American Foreign Policy, you can definitely give Red Birds By Mohammed Hanif a try. And do let me know what your feedback is.


You can buy this book at a low price from



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