A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us

Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us is a novel of love, identity and belonging that eloquently examines what it means to be both American and Muslim.

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The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity, and belonging

"A Place for Us is a triumph and an inspiration. I wish everyone would read this novel. A chronicle of the shattered expectations and irreconcilable desires within an American-Muslim family, A Place for Us hums with a deep faith in an unknown future, reminding its readers that when we are lost, love gives us a map home.” —KAREN RUSSELL, author of Swamplandia!

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.

A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.


Advance Galley Reviews

There isn't much to add to the deservedly glowing reviews that Mirza's debut novel is garnering. A Place for Us is a beautiful character-driven novel, and while the characters are all complex and realistic, what I find special in this novel is the interactions between these characters. The way the characters speak to one another and what they share with another, and especially the secrets they keep from one another, is what drives this novel. Mirza finds beauty in simple moments so that even the mundane, quotidian moments feel important and relevant. I did find the novel long and wished the final book had been condensed a bit. However, this is a stunning book and if this is any reflection of what is to come from the SJP imprint (and from Mirza as well) then I look forward to reading more.

I received an advance digital copy from First to Read in exchange for my candid review. I would give this four and a half out of five stars after my initial reading of this emotional family saga. In A Place for Us, we follow the lives of Layla and Rafiq, Indian Muslim immigrants to the United States, and their children, Hadia, Huda, and Amar. This beautiful story explores family through daily interactions, familial and cultural expectations, loss, hurt, betrayal, happiness. We begin at the wedding of Hadia. The youngest child, Amar, estranged from the family, has returned for the wedding. The events of the wedding and the vignettes of events, before and after, from the point-of-view of various characters lead us on an intensely emotional journey that moves through time. Often I find this device off-putting, here, however, I found the movement natural as the events, presented in hindsight, causally link to the interactions of the present and the relationships among all of the characters. Many lessons are lying in this novel but, perhaps, the most poignant being even acting with the best of intentions and the belief of doing what was the ‘right thing to do’ one can hurt the ones we love most.

This is a brilliant and beautiful study of a family from a religion and culture somewhat unfamiliar to me. It was extremely poignant and touching. It tells a story that can help us remember that no matter how different we are, really we are all very similar. The themes are simple but universal. Personally, I had a very strong emotional response to this book.

There are so many lessons that this book gives us. The most important is that it is very easy to love someone and not show them. How easy it is to push people away just by not speaking your thoughts. This book does a great job of weaving together the points of view from different characters. By doing this we are able to see the same events from these differing views. The timeline jumps around frequently without any real indication of when the story is in the timeline, such as indicating the year, but it is very easy to determine what timeframe the story is at by paying attention to the events that are mentioned. Normally I don't think this type of jumping around works, but from my perspective it flowed very well. This was a very touching story and is one of the most amazing stories I have read in a long time.

Married couple Rafiq and Layla grew up in India but moved to the United States to raise their three children. Their eldest daughter, Hadia, is set marry which should be a cause for great celebration. However, there is tension in the air as Amar, the youngest sibling and only son, has come back for the wedding after a long estrangement from his family. This is a story that follows the lives of this family as they deal with love, loss, resentment, and regret. This is definitely one of those family sagas in which you see how actions and events from years ago have led to how things currently stand within the family. I liked reading the different perspectives of the family members about key moments that really led each person on their own personal journey and the one as a family. My only criticism of this book is the story did jump around between characters and timelines and in some cases it was difficult at first to figure out at what time period that part of the story was coming from. Eventually, you could figure it out but it made the story feel disjointed sometimes. Culture and religion played a big role in this book and in my opinion it is what makes this story stand out a bit among other family sagas. Each character had traits that you most likely can find among your own family members. I think most of us can relate to always trying to make the right decision but years later coming to the conclusion maybe there was something different that could have been done. Overall, the book is beautifully written and I definitely recommend it. Thank you to First to Read for the advance digital copy!

 


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