Book: A Place for Us
Author: Fatima Farheen Mirza
The title of the book is interesting as it roughly translates into the fundamental human desire for connection. Doesn’t matter who you are, everyone wants to feel like they belong.
“..and perhaps there would be nothing more shameful… But this is his life. This is exactly what he wants to do with it.”
For two whole days, I was immersed in Fatima Farheen Mirza’s “A Place for Us”. Her writing style is so artistic, I completely fell in love with it. On so many instances I paused, let the words sink in, all the while completely in awe of the way she so beautifully describes every little feeling, every quiet thought.
The book starts at a wedding in the state of California. Hadia, a doctor, is getting married, and her biggest joy is that her long lost brother, Amar, has returned after three years of silence. The entire family goes pendulum-ing between happiness and worry: Will Amar stay this time? Will Rafiq control his anger towards his son? Old grievances are unearthed. Long-fading fears come alive into a fresh flame. Every member of the family feels hopeful again. But these emotions must be contained as the wedding progresses, as the food is served, as the guests’ gossip and greet.
Mirza revisits the wedding ceremony again and again over the next several hundred pages. Chapter after chapter we look into the this family’s memories, old and new episodes, little betrayals and secrets sprinkled across. We see the parents, Layla and Rafiq, before their arranged marriage in India. We follow Hadia to medical school. We read about young Amar falling in love.
As we experience all the events from different points of view, they gradually form a new meaning. The author finds in the strength of a faithful family a universal language of love and pain that speaks to us all.
When Rafiq and his young bride came to the United States, they barely knew each other, but they were united in their determination to raise a faithful family. And so, in many ways, “A Place for Us” is an immigrant tale in that long line of American novels about devout parents struggling to maintain traditional mores amid a secular culture designed to tempt their children astray. But Mirza complicates that common story with a kind of palpable devotion that makes rejection of the parents’ faith unthinkable. “What a strange and archaic world,” Hadia thinks — not with derision, simply astonishment. Yes, she and her sister feel cramped by their parents’ inflexible rules; they have no intention of agreeing to arranged marriages or lives of servitude. But they also feel the same currents of faith flowing through them. The only difference is they’re determined to chart a new Western way of living as Muslims.
The open wound in this family is the youngest child, that wayward son, Amar. He’s sweet and curious, intense and undisciplined. “A young man acting like a young man would not be a problem in any other family,” Hadia thinks. But in this family, the teen’s energy grates against the strictures of Islam, and that clash inspires evermore perilous cycles of rebellion and guilt.
Part of what makes Mirza’s novel captivating is her ability to shift among perspectives so gracefully.
“ ‘There is another way. Come back, and we will make another path.’ And if he says no, and if he says nothing, will you say this: ‘I used the wrong words. I acted the wrong ways. I will wait, until you are ready. I will always wait for you.’ ”
Goodreads Rating: 4.15/5
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
COPYRIGHTS RESERVED ©