I saw A PLACE FOR US by Fatima Farheen Mirza plastered all over Instagram. I knew a part of this book’s hype was attributed to it being the first book being published by Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint SJP for Hogarth books. Yes, I know there have been rave reviews about this book and the author too. For some strange reason I decided to pass this one by for now, but I was drawn back to it again recently and I decided to purchase my copy.
Here is my take on Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel A PLACE FOR US.
A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Overview – Spoiler Alert: Low
As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children—each in their own way—tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.
– Synopsis taken from book
Review – Spoiler Alert: Low
After finally reading A Place For Us, I genuinely see what all the hype is about. This book covers so many topics and things but the main topics are family, and belonging. I had such a hard time putting my sentiments into words with this one. Words I would use to describe this book are – thought provoking, emotional, raw, intense, and for me, heartbreaking at some points.
A Place For Us is an excellent exploration into the life of a Muslim American family and how the obligations of family and religion collide; and the sometimes tangled web it creates. The struggle between tradition values and beliefs, in a modern, secular world and ever changing world. There is even hints of life being Muslim post 9/11.
This is an excellent debut, and it far surpassed my expectations. I enjoyed the authors writing, the character development was excellent, and there was nothing left unturned or unsaid. And the ending, was pure gold. This book was also a gentle reminder, that as individuals and by extension families…we are more alike than we are different.
Commentary – Spoiler Alert: Medium
A PLACE FOR US is definitely a book that is perfect for a book club / group discussion. There are so many topics, both major and minor to discuss, and this novel is extremely thought provoking. The family the book revolves around are: husband and wife Rafiq and Layla, and their children Hadia, Huda and Amar.
*Inserts novel’s synopsis from the overview here*
The majority of the book is narrated by Layla, Hadia and Amar but Rafiq narrates the ending.
The novel spends a great deal looking back at life for Layla and Rafiq before they were married, and starting their family in the United States – so we get a full understanding of their backstory. It then progresses to discusses their early family life and when their challenges started to arise (the meat of the matter). The book goes past the wedding to look at life after that event as well.
Yes, I know a theme of this book is “a Muslim family and their re-adjustment to life in the United States”. While religion is a factor, I think the focus of belonging was not based on “belonging in America/ American society”. Instead the main focus is on “the character’s belonging in his own family, and by extension Islam”. The struggle and the conflict in my opinion, is how the obligations of family and religion collide; and the sometimes tangled web it creates. The struggle between tradition values and beliefs, in a modern, secular world and ever changing world.
In this story I connected more with the father son relationship (Rafiq and Amar) – not the women (Layla, Hadia, Huda). I was wondering if the story was more about them than the others? Was that the authors intention? I don’t know.
I loved the ending, with the fathers reflection – it was gold and it tied everything together. And if you’re extremely sensitive, after reading the whole story, knowing everything they went through, and then reading the last few lines I’ve quoted below…you just might tear up.
“I will wait by the gate until I see your face. I have waited a decade, haven’t I, in this limited life? Waiting in the endless one would be no sacrifice. And Inshallah one day, I know I will see you approaching. You will look just like you did at twenty, that year you first left us, and I will also be as I was in my youth. We will look like brothers on that day. We will walk together as equals.”
The writing was so fluid, emotions were so raw – I loved the story. This book was also a gentle reminder, that as individuals and by extension families…we are more alike than we are different.
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Have you read A PLACE FOR US? Is it on your TBR?
Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below.