A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza just broke my heart.

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.


Another #1001books review! Possession by A.S. Byatt

Two books in one week checked off my 1001 books tbr, and I loved this one just as much as The Namesake. I finished the book early this morning, and originally thought it was a 4 1/2 star book, but I’ve been thinking about it since and can’t think of a single thing I didn’t love about it… so I’ve upped my rating.

A pair of young academics in the 1980s are researching the intersecting lives of two Victorian poets: Roland Michell is studying Randolph Henry Ash when he finds some partial letters from Ash to an unknown woman. Some sleuthing leads him to consult Dr. Maud Bailey, an expert on Christabel LaMotte, and the two embark on a rather thrilling literary quest to discover the previously unknown link between the Ash and LaMotte.

This book is absolutely wonderful. The writing is stunningly good—it’s so wordy, but in the best way, and Byatt has squeezed every little bit of beauty possible in to every page. I adored the layered storylines. I generally enjoy stories set in the 1800s, and the smoldering love story of Ash and LaMotte is the perfect mix of melancholy and romance. The more modern-day story is a fast-paced mystery with scholarly intrigue and a slowly-developing romance. As much as I love Ash and LaMotte and Roland and Maud, there is a full cast of interesting, well-developed characters. Leonora and Beatrice were fantastic in the modern story line, and Ellen and Blanche add layers to the Victorian story.

I’m not normally drawn to poetry, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the poems and prose that are laced throughout the book. If only we could really read all of Ash’s poetry on Norse mythology and Christabel LaMotte’s Melusina. Their letters to each other were beautiful as well.

Truly deserving of the awards and praise it has garnered, I think this novel will end up being a treasured classic. I will definitely be buying a ‘forever’ copy for my shelves. I’m certain this will be a rare reread for me someday.