I Picked up this book for Four very specific reasons.
1. It was on Sale.
2. The cover is really pretty
3. Ayesha is one of the most beautiful names in the world in my opinion.
4. Lastly, I am reading Rom Coms again
That's it. That's why I picked it up.
I hesitated a little a bit before buying it because I mean... I love pride and prejudice but does the world really need ANOTHER retelling of it? It turns out, yes!! This is the retelling that I did not know I was waiting for.
Spoiler free summary
Ayesha Shamsi -or the Miss Elizabeth Bennet of this story- is a hijab wearing,practicing muslim who is very modern, very family centered and also very artistic. She is a second generation immigrant who doesn't have a lot of siblings but ends up playing the role of big sister to her cousin, Hafsa, who is currently living her own version of the bachelorette. Ayesha is a 27 year old woman of east indian descent who is no hurry to get married. Typical to the poet that she is, she only wants to commit to someone who sweeps her off her feet.
As expected, our Mr. Darcy- Khalid Mirza- is the complete opposite. Khalid is a handsome man who is very conservative and traditional in a very visible way. He wears white robes, keeps his long beard and wears a skullcap. He comes from a strict family and he wants to have an arranged marriage like that of his parents and many others in his community.
Their first encounter is disastrous but it is not the last one that they have. The rest of the story is full of soul searching, unlearning and growing for both of the characters, separately and together, while their love for each other also develops.
It is the pride and prejudice that we all know and love with a very necessary twist that allows us to take a glimpse into a world that we rarely get to see.
Ayesha is one of the girls next door.
Ayesha is a lot of girls that I know. She is your typical modern day muslimah who matches her hijab to her fashionable outfit and is just as outspoken as she is religious. That is incredibly refreshing to see reflected in a novel. Most of the time, on TV screens and in books, the muslim woman is "Liberated" in the end or she is struggling to come to terms with who she wants to be and what her religion wants from her. Very few times, do we see this kind of woman just... be! The fact that Ayesha covers her hair was barely relevant to this story even though her religion was at the very center of it. It felt amazing to me, reading that and not having it be a big deal so I can only imagine what it was like for my muslim women out there who read this book.
A love story with some bite
The author uses the journeys of the characters to highlight some issues that are very common in muslim communities like the unique kinds of discrimination that they face but there are also issues that everyone can relate to. There are a lot of things in this story that revolve around family obligations, sexism or even the hard choice between chasing money and following your passion that we sometimes have to make. There is the struggle to commit or the heartbreak that comes from commiting to the wrong person. There is just so much more to this dramedy even though it is supposed to be a light and easy page turner ( Which it still is in many ways).
Conservative, muslim and non-threatening
85% of the time, when a terrorist shows up in a movie, he looks like Khalid and yet, khalid is the gentlest soul in this book. That's not a rare thing, too! This man believes in a religion that is centered around peace and so on many occasions during this book, he actually makes it a point to mention that he is not confrontational. That he doesn't want to cause any trouble or discomfort. It was pretty amazing that the author used this story to show us the kind and gentle side of traditional muslim men because too often, they are only portrayed as extremists instead of the full human beings that they actually are.
It's Canadian, Eh?
Okay- the fact that this was a big deal to me is really my fault. It's only after reading this book that I realized how few canadian books I have actually read. That is very sad considering the fact that I live in the middle of Canada, literally. I may have to change that though because I must admit that I really enjoyed reading about timbits at a Tim Horton's.
In short... I really enjoyed this debut novel. I can't wait to watch the movie and hopefully read more of Uzma Jalaluddin's work in the future.