My review of this book honestly doesn’t do it justice. I had a ton of thoughts here and I tried to boil it down to its essentials without spoiling too much. Here goes nothing.
Here’s some more about the book
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.
This is the first book under Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint with Hogarth. SJP and Hogarth teamed up to put together a story about a young family trying to live and love in America.
This is not a story about prejudice, racism, stereotypes, or Islamophobia. This is the story of a family who tried their best to raise their kids in a country they are new to and end up having to make sacrifices and mistakes.
The book follows three people from a five-person family; Layla, the mother, Hadia, the eldest sister, and Amar, the youngest and only son.
It starts off at Hadia’s wedding. Their brother, Amar, returns for the first time in three years ever since running away to celebrate with her. And as the wedding begins, Fatima Farheen Mirza takes us back to the very beginning. From the moment Layla decides to marry Rafiq and they decide to move to America with their children.
I thought that the backstory would be just that, a few chapters of backstory and then we would move onto what happens at the wedding. However, the backstory is the story. Every nuanced memory, every decision Layla, Hadia, or Amar makes somehow impacts their lives in a much bigger way. The stories Fatima Farheen Mirza (FFM) chooses to show you all intricately lace themselves into the bigger story. Every tiny detail from picking out pistachio ice cream at the parlor to the innocent conversation between two kids somehow builds to create the lives these characters find themselves in at the end.
And this is where many people will stop reading this book because the little details FFM includes feel trivial. There’s no explanation on why particular memories are provided. However, don’t take this book lightly and don’t underestimate it. It will all reveal itself in the end.
This story is about how five people can live in the same household and grow up completely different. This story is about how sometimes parents don’t make the right choices for their kids and despite trying to get back to a better place, it’s just not going to happen. This story is about choosing to raise your kids under a specific faith.
If you weren’t aware, Islam and being Muslim is a big part of this novel. No one needs to understand the Muslim faith to read it. I had really no knowledge of its practices or its teachings, but the book gives explanation when it needs to.
For this family, the Muslim teachings help you to lead a life of goodness and all in an effort to enter the kingdom of heaven a little bit easier. I mean, doesn’t that sound super familiar? While you read, you get the sense that this religion is pretty similar to your own. I mean there are still obvious differences, but the message seems the same to me. The stories I was told as a kid to keep me on the moral high ground. The prayers we would recite before a big family gathering. It all felt so resonant to me and I’m not Muslim.
I think what I loved most about this book is how our parents make the conscience decision to raise children under a specific faith. And if you’ve grown up around any faith, you can understand what it’s like. Sundays are reserved for church. You volunteer your time helping out with church events. You know the pastor or rabbi or preacher or whoever intimately and you invite them to your parties like anyone else. My family raised me deeply in the Christian faith and my grandfather even helped to build the church they all go to today.
But it’s these decisions that parents make on behalf of their children that shape their lives for the future. You can see it within Hadia, who is always trying to make her parents see her at her best. You can most definitely see it in Amar, who doesn’t care about his faith and cares more about the love his family isn’t able to provide him.
The most heart-wrenching part of this book is the end. Part Four is where you read the book from their father, Rafiq’s, perspective. I thought that this book would end with some happy ending, but this part was probably the most crucial and most significant to the entire plot.
Rafiq is now much older and a grandfather. He’s in the hospital getting a tumor in his brain checked out and that near-death scare causes him to write this letter. Part four is completely written in the first person while the whole book was in the third person omniscient. Part four is a letter to his son, who at this point has been gone for close to ten years. Part four is where the tears are heavily laden and all that backstory you had to read comes into clear focus. I don’t want to give too much away, but just make it to part four and everything will make sense.
I thought I can write this review unbiasedly, but I keep thinking about the parallels this story has to my life and my family. My sister and I had the same upbringing. We all grew up in the same house on Long Island and yet my sister and I are on completely opposites. My parents were strict and believed in studying and getting into a good school. My parents’ focus for me was to become a doctor while for my sister it was to be an artist. I resonated with Hadia and I think my sister could resonate with Amar.
Eff it, I’m giving this five stars. Despite the grammar and writing style that didn’t jive with me and the slow burner, this book is ridiculously good. This book is good and you have to read it. Even if it takes you hours. Even if it takes you months. Even if you spend your entire rest of your year reading it. Read it. You won’t regret it.
- Hardcover, 448 pages
- SJP and Hogarth (June 12, 2018)
- Rating: 5/5 stars
- Buy A Place for Us on Amazon
I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.
Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.