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June 4, 2019
Ayesha Shamsi is considered a spinster in her big family. She’s only in her 20s, but she’s put her own interests and career before entertaining the idea of marriage, and while she’s seen as dependable and smart, her family also pities her. Her cousin Hafsa, on the other hand, is younger, prettier, and is well on her way to marrying a rich man so she can settle down and go shopping. Ayesha and Hafsa have a close relationship, but Ayesha isn’t jealous of Hafsa. She doesn’t even want to get married anyway.
But all that changes when Ayesha meets Khalid at a poetry reading one night. Khalid is conservative and awkward, a mopey downer to be sure—but she can’t help but be drawn to him. Even though their first encounter is unpleasant, they find themselves working together on a fundraising project for the local mosque. Over time they become close and are forced to challenge their beliefs and assumptions about each other. But their fragile connection is shattered when Ayesha gets caught in a huge lie and Khalid’s past comes back to haunt him. After all the drama unfolds, the two have to decide if they can forgive and forget, or if there’s just too much baggage to move forward.
Think of this book as a Muslim version of Pride and Prejudice. Intriguing, right? The story manages to incorporate many of the good points from the original P & P (shady Wickham, dumb-dumb aunties, crazy siblings, etc.), while adding a whole new layer of interest through religion and culture. I loved getting to know these characters, Khalid especially. I found myself wondering how I would act around him if he were my coworker. It made me think, and I appreciated getting to know someone from a completely different upbringing than my own.
I have a couple minor complaints. First, the book has some slow moments. If it had been about 50 pages shorter, things would have moved along much more comfortably. I also wish Khalid’s mother had been fleshed out a little more in the beginning, since she plays such a major role later on.
But I still really enjoyed the story overall. What a refreshing take on a well-loved classic.
Thank you to Net Galley and Berkley Books for the ARC!