If you aren’t in the mood to deal with mediocre, stay away.
I used to follow Abu’s Jinns on Instagram. I don’t know when I stopped or why, but I do know that it was nice to see an Instagram story of Jinnistan get published. When I walked into Saeed Book Bank a few days ago and saw it stocked there, I knew I had to try it even though I’ve avoided jinn stories in all forms; after all, if you tell them, they’ll also come to listen in.
If you aren’t from Pakistan, this may not have significance to you. Abu’s Jinns was an Instagram page, which is now private, which posted jinn stories in its captions. You weren’t there for any picture. Ayesha Muzaffar (the page owner) made the stories feel real. You weren’t there for some beautifully edited caption that made your heart; you were there for a story that sounded like something a friend would tell you.
This isn’t a book of happy endings; most stories are gruesome; people disappear and die in terrible ways. But some are ordinary; sometimes you need to apologize, and sometimes you need to say hello. Many stories focus on human greed and cruelty, where people miss out on being gentle. Some are scary for the sake of it.
I wanted to love Jinnistan the way I loved Abu’s Jinns. I couldn’t. While the author is a good storyteller, and I don’t want to be on a campsite next to her, as a book, this could have been much better written. When you’re writing a book with extensive use of roman Urdu it’s already a bit of a challenge. The author was mostly able to overcome this by ensuring her stories stayed conversational, even though there were lapses in that which felt forced.
I think the author could have avoided many of these problems had she re-read her book out loud a month after writing it and before publishing it. Things just needed to be cleaned up. In one story, that I read out loud to my cousin, I realized that the paragraphs were utterly messed up, and it wasn’t a printing issue.
Long story short, I think Abu’s Jinns was a great thing to have on Instagram. However, it didn’t need to be turned into a book. Stories work on different mediums and platforms, and Abu’s Jinns worked. If you loved Abu’s Jinns, I recommend you stay away from this book. If you haven’t had any experience with that, the book is a 3-star read.