July 13, 2018
A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Muslim, Family Life, Cultural Heritage
A Place For Us shares the story of an Indian-American Muslim family whom we meet as they gather to celebrate a family wedding. Through flashbacks, readers are filled in on the family dynamics, family history, and become acquainted with the parents, Rafiq and Layla, and their three children, Hadia, Huda, and Amar. Told mostly from the perspectives of Layla, Hadia, and Amar, readers begin to appreciate the complexity of family relationships, understand the bonds that draw the family together, and become acquainted with the personalities along with the insecurities and rivalries that cause conflict. In light of the parents’ conservative Muslim faith and living in California, the children must find their way in reconciling the faith of their parents and their traditional ways with the reality of day-to-day lives, and individual hopes and dreams. At the wedding of the oldest daughter, which breaks with tradition and is a union of love and not arranged by parents, Amar, the prodigal son, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. The last part of the story is told from the father’s heartfelt perspective. This is a story of love, identity, parenting, coming of age, faith, and belonging. Amazon Rating (July early reviews): 4.5 Stars
This is by far the best story I’ve read this year! It shattered my 5 star rating scale! In addition to being a favorite this year, it will likely end up on my list of lifetime favorites. A Place For Us includes all the elements I really love in a great story; however, I know reading is personal and you may not feel the same.
Why all the love?
- Two of the elements I love best in a great story are important themes and well drawn characters. This story features well-developed characters, complicated family dynamics, complex relationships, issues of faith, parenting woes and joys, diversity, moral dilemmas, regrets, compassion, grace, loyalty, finding one’s voice, etc. I love that at the end of conflict, misunderstanding, best intentions, and brokenness, there is grace and mercy and love.
What about the themes?
When I first considered the book, I wondered what I would have in common with a Muslim family and ended the read filled with compassion, empathy, and understanding…and thinking that we have more similarities than differences. Here are some of the themes that were the most thought provoking:
- Conservative religious values: I was raised in a conservative religious home and I relate to some of the concerns the children experience when reconciling the strict expectation of the parents with the secular culture in which they are growing up.
- Parenting: worrying about each child for different reasons, striving to make things fair while meeting individual needs, trying one’s best (having good intentions) and still making mistakes, failure, heartache and grief if there’s estrangement, etc.
- A woman’s independence and voice in a male dominated culture.
- Parents that are broken by regret and grief.
- Children seeking parental approval and blessing.
- Sibling competition, achievement, support, loyalty.
- A parent’s helplessness and concern over a struggling child.
- A young adult’s need to differentiate from the family.
- Fathers that are broken by regret and grief.
- Prodigal son.
- The immigrant experience causes me to consider what my great grandparents faced as immigrants.
What did I appreciate?
I appreciate the multi faceted, multi layered, kind, insightful, compassionate, and gentle look at family and faith. I find it refreshing that it wasn’t a dysfunctional family….just a real one with authentic and relatable problems. At the end, though, it seems like it’s the son’s story (Amar), and I’d love a sequel!
“Of all my mistakes the greatest, the most dangerous, was not emphasizing the mercy of God.” ~Rafiq
I highly recommend A Place For Us for readers who love well written, thoughtful, and poignant family drama, for those who desire more diversity in their reading life or for those who are in a Muslim family, and for readers who don’t want to miss out on one of the most talked about and highly rated books of the year.
What I’d like you to know, though, is that the author’s use of flashbacks makes the reader work hard in the beginning to construct understanding as the flashbacks move swiftly from character to character and hop between time periods; one reviewer remarks that it is like looking through a kaleidoscope and every time it turns we see the story change, creating a new picture that allows readers to see different facets that provide a deeper understanding. It was my experience that as the story progressed and I became more comfortable with the author’s style and became better acquainted with the characters, the reading became easier.
My Rating: 5+ Stars
Meet the Author, Fatima Farheen Mirza
Happy Reading Bookworms!
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My Summer TBR
I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a handful, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)
Two Links I Love:
For the remainder of July I’m expecting to review The Widows of Malabar Hill, provide a July wrap up, choose the most compelling character from July reading, and also anticipate my first blogiversary with a give away (tbd).
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What are some of the most memorable family stories that you’ve read? Do you enjoy or seek out diverse reads?
What are you reading this week?
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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.
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