There were many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts being broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream-whatever that dream might be. (Pearl Buck)
A family, a faith, a country, customs, and traditions all combine to make this book an outstanding piece of literature. This is a story that will break your heart so many times in so many ways. “I don’t know why they call it heartbreak. It feels like every other part of my body is broken too.”
A story begins, a wedding, and a new life start, and a tragic child grown to manhood suffers and a family that has been crippled comes to together and then breaks apart once again.
This is a tale of a family, a family that has been somewhat pitted against what their values and morals dictate according to their Muslim faith. It is an Indian Muslim family living in California and trying to reconcile their faith to the land where their place in this country conflicts often with what they hold most dear. There are three children in this family, Hadia, the oldest daughter, whose choices in life are limited to the possibility of an arranged marriage or to chose the profession of becoming a doctor, Huda, the younger sister who seems to follow always Hadia’s lead, and Amar, the son, the youngest family member, whose life seems to be fraught with obstacles.
The parents Layla and Rafiq love their children, but it is their son whose life worries them so. Amar struggles. He struggles with school, with loving a girl who is declared to be not for him, and he struggles with the strictures of his father, his faith, and his life. He is the one who breaks his parents’ hearts. He is the one who is most in need of love, of understanding, of assurances that all will be well and he is loved.
However, where he most seeks these assurances, those from a father he idolizes, a mother he implicitly trusts, he does not receive what he needs. His father holds a strict line, while his mother betrays him and he feels that he is useless and worthless. His father feels he is making his son, all his children, into strong adults who honor their faith and its customs. He does not speak the important words his son needs to hear. He lets distance and the outside world steal his son away and when he reflects on his life after a serious illness, all the thoughts he has are the ones he should have voiced ages ago.
This was such a sad tale. It made me think of the ways in which adherence to religious principles can often be an enormous almost insurmountable challenge for children. It made me think of words unspoken, of times when forgiveness is most needed, of experiences not shared. There are always the children who will adhere to the religious and community practices, but there are some who revolt and fall by the wayside floundering with their inability to accept and carry the burden what is being fostered upon them.
Thank you for Fatima Mirza, SJP for Hogarth, and NetGalley for providing this reader with an advanced copy of this most tender and poignant novel.
Thank you also to the Traveling Sisters group who read this book with me and added so much thought, introspection, and insights into this story. “Reading a good book is like taking a journey.” We took a wonderful journey with this one dear sisters!
Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.