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5.0 out of 5 starsa thought-provoking, coming of age story
Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2016
I read this for a book club, and honestly I may have given up on it early on if I hadn't had the incentive to finish for the discussion.... But so glad I did continue reading. The writing style I found a bit challenging, you often wonder where this story is going. But by the end it really gives you so much to think about and really gives you such a unique perspective on cultural competency and looking at life from someone else's point of view. Essentially it's a coming-of-age story for a couple of young Bangladeshi women, with all the parental-child struggles that usually involves, but add to that all the issues of growing up as a racial, religious, and gender-identity minority.
This book was mixed for me. It was quick and interesting, as there is a lot of dialogue and things happened quickly. I liked both the Brooklyn and Bangladesh cultural aspect. But I felt like this could have been three books that dove deeper into the stories - the family’s life in Brooklyn as one book, the family’s life in Bangladesh, and maybe a full prequel based on Anwar’s letter. I think it was too much story for one novel, some things could have been fleshed out more.
4.0 out of 5 starsA Debut Novel About A Muslim Family
Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2020
The Saleem family lives in Brooklyn. Anwar is a pharmacist and his wife, Hashi, runs a wedding consultation business along with a beauty salon. Hashi was Anwar's best friend's little sister when they met and married in Pakistan. As the situation over the separation with India worsened, they emigrated to America. When the brother and his wife were killed in the conflict, the Saleem's didn't think twice but brought over their niece, Ella, who was two at the time. They raised Ella as their own daughter along with their other child, Charu.
Now years later, everything has changed. The girls are pretty much grown. Ella has just finished her first year at college while Charu is in her last year of high school, eagerly awaiting her turn at college. Both girls face some of the issues women do as they give up their childhood years. Ella isn't sure of her sexuality but is pretty sure she is only attracted to women, first her cousin, Charu, then Charu's best friend, Maya. Charu is ready to give up her virginity but not sure if that should be with another Muslim or one of the other boys she finds so attractive.
Anwar and Hashi also have issues. Anwar's brutish older brother has moved in on them when his wife kicked him out. He is a constant negative presence, always carping and complaining at how the Saleem's household is run. Both want him out but they aren't sure how to accomplish that. The couple worry about the girls and how to raise them as good Muslim women. Their marriage also has become humdrum and neither is sure how to fix that. As the problems mount, the family decides to go back to visit family in Pakistan and work on the issues there.
This is a debut novel. Islam has written a book that has hope as the family works through issues and they are resolved. The book suffers a bit from first novel issues. There are a multitude of things that happen, fires, sexual orientations and awakenings, deaths, dark family secrets, infidelity and family relationships. Any one of these issues could have served as the basis for an interesting novel but instead too much happens and the impact of each revelation is muted by the next one coming right behind it. It will be interesting to read later novels by this author as she finds her pacing a bit more. This book is recommended for readers of family relationships and those interested in learning about other cultures.
3.0 out of 5 starsI didn't love this book but I can't seem to stop thinking ...
Reviewed in the United States on August 27, 2015
**I received an Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
3 stars...I didn't love this book but I can't seem to stop thinking about the characters.
It's an impressive debut novel, especially with respect to how well developed each of the characters are considering the book has less than 300 pages.
The story is told from the point of view of multiple family members over the course of a summer. Each character is affected differently by the events of the summer & each has it's very own distinct voice & point of view providing the reader with an understanding of what motivates each character as well as an understanding of the family dynamics & relationships between the characters.
The dialogue between the characters is well written. Each character speaks as though a person of their age & position would speak. The characters interact with each other as you would expect given their ages & positions.
The prose is descriptive. There may not be many lines that will move you to read them more than once but you will be able to picture the settings, both in New York & Bangladesh.
The plot is a bit heavy & depressing but the ending is hopeful.
I can't exactly pinpoint why I didn't exactly love it; however, I did enjoy the characters. I did like the book & recommend it to others.