I’m on a roll lately… one really excellent book after another. This one is absolutely heartbreaking, but so very good.
The novel opens with the wedding of Hadia, the eldest of three children of a devout Muslim Indian-American family. Attending the wedding is Amar, the youngest sibling, who has been estranged from his family for three years. From here, the storyline jumps back to the to the arranged marriage of parents Rafiq and Layla, and then back and forth through the family’s lives leading up to the wedding.
The writing is phenomenal. The narrative jumps around to crucial moments in the family’s history, moving forward and backward in time, but this is done so masterfully that it all fits together seamlessly. There is so very much emotion packed into these beautiful words. I found myself going back over passages just to hear them again. All of the characters are fleshed out completely, and I really felt all of the highs and lows, betrayals and joys, right along with them.
The book deals extensively with members of the family’s relationship to their Muslim faith, and to each other. We experience 9/11, and later the hateful political rhetoric beginning in 2016, from their prospective. There is conflict and disagreement, but it is clear that this family loves one another deeply. Equal parts sad, infuriating, and uplifting.
The final part of the novel switches to the POV of one character, several years after the wedding. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I was initially surprised at the character choice for this, but ultimately felt it was the perfect way to end the story. There is some repetition as we revisit points in the story through this character’s eyes, but this added so much more to the story.
This book made me think and feel on almost every page. It’s an immigrant story, a story of Muslim faith, and a family saga, and manages to be perfect in every way. I am certain that it will stay with me for a long time.