My reading lately has been expanding to include more cultural family dramas. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is just such a book. I thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
About A Place for Us:
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth (June 12, 2018)
The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity and belonging
As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made.
There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride.
What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children — each in their own way — tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.
A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.
About the Author:
FATIMA FARHEEN MIRZA was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.
Find out more about A Place for Us at sjpforhogarth.com.
A Place for Us is the story of a family. It begins with Layla, a young Muslim woman who is told that she is to be married. This man, Rafiq will take her away to America where he has a job and good prospects. Layla follows her new husband away from all she knows. She soon finds herself pregnant and one daughter leads to another and then finally a son.
Haida and Huda the girls grow up without issues. They are well behaved and follow the rules put forth in the household. Amar, the boy is another story. His birth was a bit traumatic so his mother clings to him and Amar returns the love. This troubles Rafiq for reasons he can’t really articulate. His own father died when he was still quite young and he wonders at his ability to be a father himself.
As the children grow and the family tries to live a devout, Muslim life in the time after 9/11 each one tries to find their place in the family and the world. Rafiq and Layla try to maintain the old ways while the children look to the future. Amar is constantly at odds with his father while being protected by his mother and resented by his sisters. It makes for some tense family dynamics.
There is a very strong, compelling and rich family drama within the pages of this book. Dealing with universal issues of love, loyalty, faith, and trust there is much to mine within a family that has a patriarch that rules with a somewhat iron fist within cultural norms that demand obedience. Clashes of traditions further add to the mix. The characters are all very unique and very human with all the good and bad that go into making each of us. So you can see where this would be a book that would keep you invested and wanting to get lost in the story.
But that is the problem. You can’t just get lost in the story. It hops all over the place in time with no real logic. There are breaks but you don’t know after a section if you will be in the same time, a few years back or decades back. It’s downright confusing. There were seven main characters and each one would go back and forth in time within a chapter. Heck, various characters would go to different times from section break to section break. You had to really keep it together to remember what was what. I had it sorted by about halfway through but I had some frustrations. Were it not for this the book would have a higher rating.
Maybe others will be fine with all of the back and forth. It did not work for me. The underlying story was strong so that did save the novel. I respect that the present is built upon the past but there are easier ways to get to the point.
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