Pages: 385 pages
Published: June 12, 2018
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth
Genre: Fiction & Literature, Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.
In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent’s faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.
A deeply affecting and resonant story, A Place for Us is truly a book for our times: a moving portrait of what it means to be an American family today, a novel of love, identity and belonging that eloquently examines what it means to be both American and Muslim — and announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.
Have you ever encountered a novel that both touched you soul and warmed your heart? In my opinion, I haven’t met a contemporary novel that was able to inflict that type of emotion since Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is not only a novel that tugs on the heartstrings, but creates a story, filled with a strong sense of identity and discovering your place in the world, a running theme that readers can connect with.
The story was beautifully written, with an engrossing plot and wonderfully depicted characters. This book may be classified as literary fiction but the fact that it doesn’t fit that mold is what is what makes this novel so enticing. Mirza was not trying to sound sophisticated and overuse analogies, allegories or be too “flowery” with her writing. Unlike some contemporary writers who strive to in this sphere, Mirza gave the readers what they wanted: she told a story, an intimate portrait of an Indian-American family. She wasn’t trying to philosophical or treat her readers like they weren’t intelligent. She allowed her characters to do the talking. And I think that is what made this story so compelling to me. The family might be of different race, but their struggles and aspirations didn’t diminish the realism their story portrayed.
A Place For Us defines the high expectations we anticipate not only from others but we expect from ourselves. With this family, we see how high expectations and ambitions can affect the relationships around us. This family’s high ideals may appear to be a positive to some. However, those ideals are what tears them apart. Their constant battle with one another has caused them to inflict both physical and emotional pain. This internal civil war prevents them from revealing their true feelings and burying secrets that of course, one day, will disrupt their already family lifestyle.
The one flaw I had with this book is the nonlinear storytelling. Their plot would sometimes jump from one time period to the next and I find that technique frustrating. If the story has to go back in time, that is fine but at least it should try to be consistent. This inconsistent time jumping gave me headaches and left me frustrated at how long the story was going. I understand why Mirza did it this way. It was to give readers glimpses into this family’s past and present lives. It was an intriguing writing style but not a method that will be open to all readers.
Another flaw is the lack of interaction with one of the children, Huda. Her siblings, Hadia and Amar, had a more interesting relationship but I feel that Huda was left out in the cold. The author focused on all the other characters except for Huda and I feel that her story needed to be told. She was the middle child. The middle child tends to feel left out of family matters and someone who definitely have a hard time finding her own place in the world. Her feelings about what was going on in the past and the present was definitely a story that needed to be told.
Overall, this heartwarming novel will definitely be a memorable one. Just be prepared for a long deep, sometimes confusing read. This is definitely not a quick read but that is a good thing. You want to give yourself some time and energy to know more about this family.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars