Cover Image: A Place for Us

A Place for Us

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Member Reviews

A story of a very complicated family - every member is looking for acceptance but aren’t able to find it amongst each other.

Family, what it means, how they love and how it can hurt.

What a wonderful story that will stay with me.
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My review below was posted on my blog on June 11, 2018, at

I was happy to receive an advance copy of Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel  “A Place for Us” as the early buzz for it’s  been strong. It’s scheduled to publish on Tuesday and is the first novel of Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint — SJP for Hogarth. Hmm, who knew?

For her first pick, Parker’s chosen what she explains is “an exquisitely tender-hearted story of a Muslim Indian American family caught between cultures.” For those like me who are often suckers for immigrant family sagas (or second-generation ones) such as those by Celeste Ng and various others, I had to check it out. Though perhaps this story reminded me a bit more of Jhumpa Lahairi’s 2003 novel “The Namesake,” for those who are familiar with that one. 

“A Place for Us” opens with the Indian wedding in California of Layla and Rafiq’s daughter Hadia, who’s their golden child — soon to be a doctor — and the older sister of Huda and Amar.  Hadia’s marriage is a match of love and not arranged like her parents’; and her sister Huda hopes to follow in her footsteps — into the working world and with marriage. But her brother Amar, you learn, has just returned after being out of touch with the family for three years to be at his sister’s wedding. Uh-oh, as it goes on … all seems not right, and you begin to wonder what has happened in the family and why Amar, the youngest, has been estranged. 

The story then jumps back in time to tell about the family’s beginning: of the parent’s arranged marriage in India, their move to California and of the youths of their three children there. The parents are strict and adhere to their Muslim faith in their new home country, enforcing rules on their kids who each handle straddling the two cultures to various degrees.  It’s right around the time of 9/11 and thereafter, and the backlash pressure on the kids as Muslims at school is high, along with their parent’s pressures on them to achieve academic success, and not sin or partake in temptations: therein forbidding social gatherings, expensive clothes, drugs and alcohol, and unauthorized fraternizing between the sexes.    

Unfortunately Amar’s not cracked up to be as abiding or as dedicated a student as his sisters, which leads to fights with his quick-tempered father.  Amar’s a poet at heart, with different sensibilities, getting into trouble at times, smoking weed with his friends as a teen, and falling for Amira, who lives in their tight-knit Muslim community but is above his league and from a prominent family.  Soon they start meeting in secret, sharing a bond over a tragedy that takes place in Amira’s family. All is bliss for a while as they try to work out how they can be together in life …. until eventually what happens to their forbidden love — and the betrayals revealed thereafter —  fractures Amar’s family and leads you to wonder … whether there will someday be a chance of reconciliation with Amira or his family.

Ahhh it’s reminiscent of “West Side Story” and “Romeo and Juliet.” And the betrayals, too, in the story are pretty heart-wrenching. I wanted to shake the characters, especially the parents for being, so set in their traditional world and strict faith that they overlook the happiness of their own kids, restricting many of their activities, even while trying to do right by them. It all seems pretty suffocating. Yet the last 80 pages of the novel are from the father’s point of view, which makes him seem a bit more sympathetic than I initially thought, though I just wish he could’ve seen the light sooner. In fact, none of the characters are all bad or all good. It’s one of those stories in which they each have secrets, or agendas, or vices, but hold close ties to one another as well.  

In this way, I liked its nuances, and insights into living amid two cultures. I’m guessing that the 26-year-old author (wow!) drew on her own experiences as a Muslim American growing up in California. I thought “A Place for Us” was quite well done and gives a sensitive portrayal of each, though you should also know it’s a slow-burn of a novel that forms a picture of the family over many years. It’s a bit slow-going in places and goes over — with its back and forth chronology — some of the same internal conflicts within the family (from different perspectives) a few times over. Its focus pertains to the Muslim faith quite a bit — though it also speaks to the miscommunication and what happens in a lot of families. I found it a worthy debut.
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This is a beautiful novel - complex, emotionally resonant, and timely. I definitely recommend it. It's beautifully written and one that I won't forget for a long time. The novel focuses on family relationships with wisdom and complexity. I still can't quite believe this is a debut novel - I can't wait to see what she has for us as she grows as a novelist. I struggled a bit at the start but everything did come together for me which is the only reason it wasn't a 5 star for me. But, if you look at the reviews, you'll see a lot of 5-star reviews. This book is definitely one that you should read, especially if you're a fan of complex family dramas with a literary bent.
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A wedding initiates a flashback of family moments leading up to the wedding. A Muslim Indian family immigrates to the United States and integrates into that culture with various problems of acceptance along the way. America's acceptance of the family, parent's acceptance of their children and vice versa. Everyone is searching for their place and this drives the plot. We jump back and forther in time to find significant points that explain the present. The saddest part is the son accepting himself fand the ending message.
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A beautiful story of family and the intricate relationships involved and the depiction of place and time.  Well written.
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The premise of the story was intriguing to me, but the execution for much of it was too disjointed. Although I enjoyed the lot, the narrative went back and forth through decades and characters randomly.  The final section was beautifully written  and finally brought me fully into the story.
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It took me so long to read this book -- my mom passed away when i was about halfway through and it was hard to concentrate enough to read. But, this book kept calling to me, and little by little, I made my way back to it. It is a really heartfelt, thoughtful story of a American Muslim family and the gender and family roles of their faith -- and how what is meant to unify can also divide. It explores how family relationships evolve and shift over time -- and how sometimes the regrets you have are not or cannot be resolved. Highly recommended
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Reading about different cultures is always a plus for me. But to read about different cultures in America is even better, as I get a sense of the tug between trying to keep roots amidst the pressures of American trends and attitudes. It can't be easy. In A Place for Us, I have learned that despite all of the differences between seemingly clashing lifestyles, there is always the undercurrent of trying to be the best parent, trying to be the best child and still have your own personality, and trying to fit in. I loved the family dynamics of this book, and I loved the fact that the characters changed throughout their flawed lives. They little nuances made them seem real and like friends. Highly recommended and a perfect book to start Sarah Jessica Parker's publishing company.
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I'm not sure there is much I can say that hasn't already been said. The writing in this book is unlike any other that I have experienced. It's a beautifully crafted story about a family and all the everyday moments that may not have initially seemed like much, but ended up being so much bigger than anyone could have ever predicted. 

I wish I would have been more aware of the nonlinear timeline prior to picking up this novel. The nonlinear timeline initially irritated me, but then started to remind me of all those things you think of before you finally fall asleep, which just added to the overall experience. 

This is a tale that I think everyone can relate to. For me, it was ultimately a tale about belonging. So many of us have experienced that moment when we feel like we don't quite fit in where we are and instead of bonding over that shared experience we distance ourselves. We create unnecessary, damaging chasms.

This is a book that I think is best savored, a book that every reader should give a chance.

*Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this title.*
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This book had so many topics for a book group to discuss! Our group was mixed about how much we liked it ( I loved it) but the discussion threads were excellent - secrets, parenting, first love, trust, prejudice against Muslims, 
Highly recommended.
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I very much enjoyed "A Place For Us". Although I have little in common with the characters, I found myself relating to them and appreciating the impact that change and years had made in each of them. It took me an incredibly long time to finish the book, not because I didn't want to read, but rather because I had too many irons in the fire. In spite of that, I still found myself engaged and fascinated by the story each time I picked it up.
"Otherness" is something that is currently a concern for many people. By focusing on differences in culture, religion, or race, people can marginalize those who intimidate them, or who they see as threatening. This book opened my eyes to the way that this pressure can cause a breakdown within a family unit. The vast changes from one generation to another can as well threaten those family relationships and enhance their differences in perspective. In this story, each of the three children finds their own way to a life apart from their parents. The result pulled at my heart and helped me recognize that part of the message of this book is that we all are searching for a place where we fit in and can grow and flourish as individuals. The immigrant experience is one in which this trying to fit in is perhaps the most profoundly challenged.
One of the techniques that worked well for the author is to use the different characters to tell the story. The focus shifts from one to another and lets the author give different perspectives of any one event. This allows the reader to really get into the head of each of the characters. I found myself understanding them better thanks to this way of telling the story. The author also switches from event to event without keeping them consecutive. This might be a bit confusing, but again helps the reader to better understand the choices and rationals made by the characters. I really cared about them and thus cared about this book. I think it's a great book to use as a book club choice or as a topic starter for consideration of immigrants and current topics dealing with racism and Islamophobia.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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First of all, thank you so much to NetGalley and SJP for Hogarth for the opportunity to read this in exchange for a review. 

If you love slow burning, family drama novels that dive into the complexity of human life then this novel is for you. A Place for Us moves from the present to the past and back again to tell the story of an Indian-American Muslim family and all the conflicts and love that exist between its members. It spans several decades and explores themes of culture, faith and identity.

Unfortunately, I was not the intended audience for this book and as the minority vote here, really didn't love it. It was painfully slow, uneventful, and a bit repetitive as the same ideas where hashed out over and over again. I don't quite understand all the glowing reviews so perhaps it's just me!? I really do think the author has a beautiful writing style but the plot and the actual story-line here just was nonexistent for me. Meh.
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Despite my best intentions, I simply could not find time for this one. Thanks for the ARC nonetheless.
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A story of American assimilation. Conservative religious parents and a younger generation struggling to make their own way. I enjoyed the story structure -- the book opens with the wedding of one of the sisters and the arrival of the brother who has been estranged from the family for some time. The narrative goes back in time from there. Lots to discuss.
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A PLACE FOR US is one of the most beautiful books that I've read this year; I have recommended it to countless friends and colleagues and cannot say enough good things about the author's work. 

Intrigued not only by the culture and tradition of the family in this novel, I was also stunned by the relatability of its characters through the world of addiction and the destruction it often leaves in its wake; the themes within the novel really hit close to home, for me, and I felt completely connected to the narrative. 

Highly recommend to those who are fans of powerful family dramas and beautifully-wrought characters; please give this one a try!
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Who are isn't defined by one moment, one act or event. Rather it is thousands of small moments, each one weaving into the next which creates a life. 
A Place for Us is a book about the importance of moments. Rafiq and Layla are strangers in a strange land having emigrated Hyderabad to live in California. Although they are a family from a culture and a religion apart, this book is far more about what humanity shares than what separates one person from another. As the story unfolds, the reader moves backward and forward in time towards two pivotal events, two times when Aram, the youngest brother, will walk away from his home and family. But what happens before to cause such a dramatic action? The answer isn't a simple one and Fatima Farheen Mirza is generous and delicate as she unfolds layer after layer of one family's life. 
A Place for Us is a book to be savored slowly and with great care. The characters are relatable, multi-dimensional and stole my heart completely long before I ever entered the heart of the story. I can hardly believe this was a first novel, and I will certainly eagerly read anything else Ms. Mirza releases.
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I wanted to like this book so much, but I unfortunately had problems with it. It took me a long time to read, I often was bored, and the end is extremely upinconclusive which left me disappointed, 
On the positive side, it is an interesting take of an immigrant family, interesting situations such as cultures of home vs the new place to live, religion, differing values, and being away from what is familiar. It goes from a young woman leaving India to be a bride, to that woman becoming a grandmother. The characters in the family struggle with keeping tradition versus what they really want to do. Bending a breaking the rules in an attempt to find happiness. The youngest child, Amar struggles the most with trying to keep his family happy, and making himself happy. 
Some issues are foreign to me, while others ring true for all families. I just wish it wrapped up with a more conclusive note on something at the end ( keeping it vague to avoid spoilers)
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One of my favorite lines in literature comes from Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton .

"Because we all love imperfectly."

This quote captures my soul and summarizes my life.  If I were ever to write, this would be a theme uniting all my works just as Ann Patchett writes about strangers being thrown together and having to deal.  A Place for Us could be summarized with that quote.

I was lucky enough to receive a galley of the novel before publication and even luckier to secure a signed copy of it through The First Edition Club at Parnassus Books.  And on the eve of the first day of school, I finally was swept into the story.

As many people may warn you, it starts out slow.  The opening scene takes place at the wedding of the eldest daughter in a family of three children- two girls and a boy.  The bride secretly contacted her estranged brother, hoping he could attend.  The story is told fluidly traveling through time covering the parents’ engagement through the wedding of their eldest daughter.  It’s the story of a family.  It’s the story of how trauma happens causing some people to display grit and others to spiral out of control.  I loved it because it was real. I loved it because it was messy.  Life is messy.  Love is messy.

While the novel was set in America, it allowed me to experience life from a culture that is not my own.  The family are Muslims of Indian background and yet all children were born in America.  The questions the children encountered throughout their life seemed painful and yet they were constant and unavoidable.  Their experiences after 9/11 broke my heart when life changed for them the moment the first plane hit.

Read this, stick with it, it is so worth it!
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A Place For Us is a compelling story about faith, family, and fathers and sons. I was so moved by it, I didn't want it to end. When I finished it, I wanted to hug it to my chest and just sit quietly and comtemplate it. It is a beautifully rendered story about an American family, and one that I encourage everyone to read.
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This book was hard for me because I wanted to like it but I really struggled with the writing, pace and overall lack of emotion and/or drama to the storyline. Amar returns to attend his sister Hadia's wedding and I initially was drawn in to the possibility of family turmoil and drama because it's clear that while his sister wants him there, no one else in the family seems to. However, I found there was a lack of actually bringing that drama and tension through in the writing. There was descriptions of tiny, irrelevant things,(the hallway, the rooms, etc) that detracted from actually getting to the heart of the storyline. I felt bored. By the end, I wasn't any more connected to the characters and found the latter part to be chock full of religious talk and issues. This wasn't; for me
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