A wealthy man pursues a polyamorous fantasy of sex and devotion.
One little-known fact is that the Indian province of Goa permits the practice of polygamy for some men, provided that their first marriage is childless; a more commonly known fact is that many men around the world secretly fantasize about sitting at the center of an exotic harem. Debut author Irvine draws on both of these tidbits to create an erotic, philosophical novel about a man named Omar Al-Ghamdi, who returns to Goa after receiving an inheritance, determined to build a fantasy life. He desires multiple partners but hates “the tears, then the name-calling” of breakups, so he asks a matchmaker to make sure that a prospective bride “understands that although she will be my first wife, she is not to be the only one.” His first wife, Yasmin, orgasms at his slightest touch; his second, Aman, “thank[s] him, earnestly” after she loses her virginity to him. His third wife, Jamilla, is, as Irvine describes it, “blessed with a fabulous bottom, like a pony’s.” Omar’s attempts to balance the desires of his growing family—including the professional aspirations of one wife and the childbearing urge of another—is where much of the later story lingers. Meanwhile, Omar takes to mysticism, tantric sex, and Taoism. His journey to be an honest and good man animates most of the intellectual material here, all of it stimulating, though some of it is very clearly bound to the 1970s, the decade in which the novel is set. Irvine, to his credit, allows one of his characters to roll his eyes regarding “Tantra, sex yogis…all that weirdness,” exactly the sort of stuff that Omar loves. Readers are left to ponder the believability of Omar’s mostly harmonious and sexually fulfilled life, and there’s little question that the overall fantasy here will appeal mostly to straight men. But it will also interest anyone who enjoys a smoothly paced story about obsession, prose as taut as skin, and dialogue as transparent as Omar’s lusts.
A probing, thoughtful story about the plausibility of a happily polygamous life.