A Place for Us

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

5 Beautiful Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This was more than just a book it was an experience... I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to read this with a group of my fellow reviewers and friends the “Traveling Sisters”... we have read and love many books together, but this was hands-down the best discussion we have ever had... each of these amazing ladies brought their own life experiences to the discussion  and it touched each and every one of us in an  unique and special way.... this is a book that will stay close to our hearts and never be forgotten by any of us!

The story of a Muslim Indian American family, that really could be any family...Told non-linearly, The author wove  pieces of the present and the past together seamlessly... creating an amazing story.... A story that was above all else about love....



The family in this book faced challenges that many families do, some a little more challenging because of their strict religious beliefs... this book really emphasize the similarities between people rather than the differences... it touched on the power of words both said and not.... The desire to belong and be accepted.... the need for forgiveness both of others and yourself... it was a book filled with struggle, compassion, determination, and love.... The characters in this book evoked strong feelings in me from sorrow, to elation, to frustration, and more....

My words definitely cannot do this book justice...I strongly encourage you to read this book! just make sure you have tissue handy!

*** many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book ***
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This is the only time I can ever remember feeling like there’s something wrong with me for not loving a book. Though it’s only being published today, A Place for Us is already near-universally adored, and it sounded like a book that was right up my alley: a sprawling portrait of a dysfunctional family is the blueprint for so many of my favorite books and I didn’t see any reason for A Place for Us to be an exception.

And it’s undeniably a beautiful novel. It follows an Indian-American Muslim family living in California, who are gathered at the beginning of the novel for their eldest daughter Hadia’s wedding. We find out that the entire family is estranged from their only son, Amar, and the rest of the novel explores the factors that led to this fracturing. The prose style is simple and elegant, and the nonlinear chronology is handled deftly, constructing a portrait of this family that comes together seamlessly by the end.

Others have described this book as heart-wrenching and moving, and I see where it should have been both of those things. But the whole time I was reading I felt like there was a veil between me and these characters, who all felt to me more like constructs than real human beings. A Place for Us hits all the beats you’d expect it to from the very first page. This is a story that’s so simple, so unsurprising, that it entirely hinges on its readers’ emotional investment for there to be any payoff. And I hate to say it, but these characters just weren’t interesting to me. Each of their trajectories practically wrote itself, and I started to find it tedious that such straightforward ideas were being communicated in such a circuitous manner. We could have easily shaved off 100 pages and essentially been left with the exact same book.

But it’s worth reiterating that I’m in the minority, and it’s a sort of disorienting feeling to be left cold by a book which promises emotional resonance above all else. I’m glad that others have been able to connect with this book in a way that I did not. But if you’re looking for a heartbreaking family saga, I would personally recommend Pachinko or East of Eden or Everything I Never Told You over A Place for Us in a heartbeat.
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A Place for Us is one of the most beautiful and resonant novels I’ve read. The story of an Indian-American Muslim family living in California, it explores many different facets of their lives: the immigrant story, their deep faith, family relationships, the intricacies of arranged marriage, and the children of immigrants coming into their own.

The story begins as the family gathers for the wedding of Hadia, the family’s eldest daughter. The family is overjoyed not only at the occasion of Hadia’s marriage to Tariq, but also that the youngest son Amar has returned after a long estrangement.

Told in alternating points of view, we hear the family’s story from their parents’ beginnings in India through present day through the eyes of eldest daughter Hadia, matriarch Layla, struggling youngest Amar, and finally from patriarch Rafiq.

Hadia is a typical eldest daughter, striving to be perfect and follow the rules. She is smart and does exceptionally well in school. She loves her younger siblings, but we see some strain and bitterness toward her younger brother and both his defiant attitude and her parents’ perceived coddling of him.

Amar is a spirited young boy, a typical youngest child: testing boundaries and challenging authority. His family’s faith has never fit him well and he continually butts heads with his equally strong-willed father. His parents try desperately to do what is right for him, and to reach him with their love, but neither they nor he know how to bridge the gap that separates them.

Layla came to America following her arranged marriage to Rafiq. She loves her children, and loses herself in her role as mother and wife. Although she follows the strict dictates of her faith, she is a strong woman doing her best to raise her children well.

The story is rich and varied, and shows not only the depth of the family’s faith, but also that some struggles are common no matter a family’s background. Layla and Rafiq differ on how to handle young, challenging Amar, and their differences and resentments follow them until his adulthood.

This was one of my favorite reads of the year. I longed to savor this novel in all its beauty and heartbreak. It was beautifully and lovingly written, and I look forward to seeing more from Fatima Farheen Mirza
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Rafiq and Layla want their children to honor the traditions of their own upbringings in India. That means arranged marriages, traditional gender roles, and preserving their image in the community. Rafiq is proud, harsh, and detached, and Layla, strong but silent, chooses to keep the peace rather than challenge him. Their three children are American born and raised and have their own expectations for life, but neither Rafiq nor Layla is willing to recognize the difference between themselves and their children. Hadia is the perfect, dependable older sister. Huda is the middle sister—religious and independent. Amar is their younger brother—bright and sensitive but always in trouble. While the family is tight-knit, the house is often a quiet, tense place, and the relationships and interactions are often toxic.

The novel opens at Hadia’s wedding, where she is (surprisingly) marrying a partner of her own choice. Amar’s presence at the wedding is the source of serious tension; he has been estranged from the family, and the wedding is the first time they have seen him in years.

The story is divided into four parts. Parts one and three occur at the wedding, and part two is the story of how they got there. It has snippets from as early as Layla’s childhood and as late as Hadia’s relationship with Tareq (her husband). The fourth part of the novel circles back around to focus on one character—I’d rather not say who. But I will say that toward the end of part three, I felt confused about where the book could possibly go next, and I was anxious about the ending of a book that was thus far a five-star read and one of my favorite of the year (and possibly ever). As soon as the part opened, and I understood where Mirza was leading us, I felt both relief and an even deeper appreciation for this story.

It’s a story that I didn’t know I needed. It speaks so clearly to how hard it is be to a member of a family. How fiercely we can love one another and quietly destroy each other at the same time.

This book got me thinking not only about my own childhood and my parents, but also about how I’m parenting my children. In most families, each person wants to do what’s right, but they don’t always know what that is, and they can’t always reconcile what’s right for them with what’s right for the other members of their family. Expectations complicate simple decisions, and love masks selfishness. 

The writing is exquisite: even in the nonlinear second section, Mirza fluidly moves the reader from scene to scene, future to present to past to future again with minimal cues. I was never confused about the time or place of a scene in that section. Her writing simply doesn’t feel written: you are that submerged into the story.

While the novel is entirely in the third person, I was able to get inside most of the different characters’ heads really well, including many of the supporting characters. The one exception to this is what I see as this novel’s one flaw—why wasn’t poor Huda more fully developed? I would have said that she’s the token religious figure in the story, except that Layla is also religious. I would have appreciated another one hundred pages of novel in service of Huda’s character development.

A Place for Us lends itself well to analysis—the characters are complex and complicated, the details are beautifully intentional (the names!!!), and the structure of the novel, including the nonlinear second section, is well-worth picking apart.

It’s also a fabulous pick for book clubs because there are both a plethora of character decisions and controversial issues to discuss. Some of the issues are immigration, assimilation, generational differences, love, careers, sibling relationships, the culture of Muslim communities in the US, religious difference, and gender equality.

Heartbreaking and thoughtful, A Place for Us is infused with grief, and yet at its surface it’s a novel about love: family love and romantic love. The overall effect is the point of the book: We all love the best way we know how, even when it’s not enough.
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What I Loved:

Every momentous event and every miniscule action has a consequence—and you never know which ones will haunt you for the rest of your life. A Place for Us is a deeply moving chronicle of the life of a family, the big and the small events that shape their lives.

I love the deep, multi-faceted perspectives that the author, Fatima Farheen Mirza, unveils throughout the novel. The same event replays multiple times giving readers access into the emotions and thoughts of each character. As a parent, it's simply terrifying to see other parents' decisions play out over the course of years; but it also encourages me to champion grace in my family, and for myself, as I seek to love and serve them.

My favorite part of the novel is the last fourth, told by the father, Rafiq, to his son, Amar. Mirza's writing is impeccable as she retraces this man's faults and weaknesses along with his unspoken love and honorable intentions toward his son. My heart broke and my eyes filled with tears throughout the conclusion of this amazing story.

Mirza reminds her readers that family life is complex. Each person lives and loves in their own way; sometimes it's seen and received—other times, the expression of love feels like scorn and rejection. Sometimes duty trumps love and affection. Sometimes feelings override the truth. There is simply so much that can go wrong, be misunderstood, and tossed aside.

What I Didn't Like:

Honestly, there's not much to dislike about A Place for Us. My only hesitation in giving this book five stars is the slow start; the first third unfolds steadily and surely as it sets the groundwork for the rest of the novel.

For readers unaccustomed to literary fiction or those that enjoy more fast-paced, action-oriented stories, A Place for Us could end up on their DNF ("did not finish") shelf. However, I think the snail-like pace of the beginning is absolutely essential for the rest of the book. My advice, if you make it through the first one-third of the book, just keep going—everything is worth it in the end!

Recommended for:

A Place for Us is thoughtful, sincere, and heart-wrenching—everything a dramatic family story should be. It reflects the push and pull, give and take, of familial love and expectations. A Place for Us also shines a light on the complexities of life as an Indian American Muslim family. In many ways, Mirza's storytelling reminds me of Celeste Ng; they both harness the ability to weave compelling family stories around cultural norms and expectations and the divisions they threaten to create.

For these reasons, I highly recommend this book for lovers of literary fiction, family dramas, and those looking to diversify their reading experience.

(This review will be posted to my blog on the publication date: June 12, 2018.)
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Long, intense, at times on the slow and repetitive side, and yet this debut delivers a grave and beautiful punch. It deftly combines the specialness of a Muslim family and its culture with the commmon and recognizable features of a regular family anatomization. Best of all it’s done with a profound simplicity that touches the heart. Impressive work.
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As a long time fan of Sarah Jessica Parker’s book recommendations (her Instagram has put me onto fantastic reads including The Nix by Nathan Hill and No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts) I have been incredibly excited for this release. A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is a debut novel, and the first release of SJP for Hogarth.

This story follows the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, and the story opens on the eve of the wedding of the eldest daughter, Hadia. After weaving in and out of the childhood of Hadia and her younger siblings Huda and Amar, and their parents Layla and Rafiq, we come full circle and return to the day of the wedding later in the novel. I loved this plot structure and thought it was extremely effective in bringing the reader up to speed with the context and nuances that may have been missed in that initial scene. I found the changing timelines and switches between point of view character a little confusing to begin with, but soon settled into the flow and found it gave a well-rounded perspective of the family dynamics. With the exception of Huda, I felt that we really got to feel a sense of each character’s perspective. Given the direction the plot takes, I think this was critical to evoking as much of an emotional response as it did.

In terms of a multi-generational glimpse into a family, I have not seen this so deftly handled in fiction since Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko. What immediately captured me with this book was the portrayal of the everyday interactions between the characters, but before long it became obvious that it was the broader themes of belonging and place that I felt the reader drawn to connect with. So many of the relationships in this book, both familial and romantic, connect with these themes and tug at the heart strings, below is one example that I found to be such a perfect example of this:

Loving [name omitted to avoid spoilers] was not just loving a young woman. It was loving a whole world – a world changed by her presence, enlarged by her perception. She was of the same world he had been born into but had only ever felt himself outside of, waiting to be invited in. Sitting by her was the closest he came to feeling harmony with his own home. 

I found this a really powerful book and cannot wait to see the discussions it evokes in readers – I think this would make for a perfect book-club book for that reason.

Thanks to NetGalley and SJP for Hogarth for providing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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A Place for Us is the story of a Muslim American family navigating the intersections of faith, personal desires, and their relationships with each other. The novel starts at oldest sister Hadia's wedding as we are introduced to the main characters, seeing the event from their different viewpoints. The way they interact implies strained relationships and dramatic past events. Since we aren't given any explanation right away, this creates almost a mystery feel to the story, intriguing the reader - we want to learn more! The story then moves back in time, as we get snippets of the past from the perspectives of Hadia, the oldest sister, Amar, her brother, and Layla, the mother. These snippets are not in chronological order, however, and again we are introduced to personal dynamics and the aftermath of important situations without being given, initially, the entire context. Rather than be confusing, I found this narrative structure to be very successful at creating a good deal of interest and tension; it really drew me in and made me want to read on to learn the whole story. However, for me, the book faltered a bit in the last section. We get to see the events from a new perspective, though, because we already know at that point what happens and why, the length of this section does not seem necessary and, to me, caused the last 20% of the book to drag a bit. I think this could have been edited down without losing any meaning or emotional impact. Despite this small flaw, A Place of Us is a strong debut and definitely worth checking out.
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This is one of those books that grabs your heart – and squeezes. It is a very personal look at the relationships and faith, love and alienation, of one Indian-American family. At the same time, it also speaks to universal truths and themes including, as the title implies, finding our own place.

The story unfolds over decades as it jumps back and forth through time. As it does, it is told from the very different perspectives of the parents, one of their daughters, Haida, and their son, Amar.

Overall, this was a beautifully written novel. It's pace, which at times is slow, encourages it to be savored. So striking were the insights that, at one point, I found myself bookmarking nearly every page.

I had been alerted to, and was prepared for, an emotional conclusion. It’s been a while since a book has moved me to tears and this one did.  But the tears were not due to sadness but of incredible hope.
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The best part of this book is the writing. Lyrical,  educational, quite beautiful really. However,  the pace is slow, and the actual story is told in a disjointed way. There are continual flashbacks, without a compass point. I put it down multiple times and didn't feel an urge to get back to it. If you're looking for a slow read, this is your book. I received an advance copy for my review from NetGalley
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Wonderful, moving story of an American family. The story takes place over 30+ years as the Muslim Indian family struggle with maintaining their beliefs and customs in an ever changing social climate. A Place For Us is an emotional, beautifully written first novel by Fatima Farheen Mirza.. This story, this family is one I will be thinking about for a very long time.
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expected to be a hit when it reaches its release date - and deservedly so. highly recommended....add to your book list
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This was an engrossing multigenerational saga of conflicting values within 2 Muslim families integrated in neighboring communities over the course of several decades. Told from alternating viewpoints of parents and children. Excellent debut for Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint. Thanks for the NetGalley preview,
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Wonderful insight into what it means to be Muslim in America. Beautifully told, completely engaging and very moving. The journey of this family becomes a part of you. Highly recommend to everyone.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for my review.  This may be the breakout book of the summer.  So beautifully written!  This is the story of Rafiq and Layla who moved from India to the US to start their families, but they had trouble balancing the cultural differences between the two countries.  This is a story of how Rafiq and Layla and each of their three children navigate what it means to hold fast to your traditions and also what it means to break free of cultural ties that don't necessarily define you in a new culture.  There are scenes in this novel that are absolutely heart breaking because the author does such a fabulous job of showing a problem through different character's eyes.  I eagerly look forward to more stories from this author.
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4.5 stars, rounded up.

Poignant, warm, and thought-provoking, A Place for Us is a tremendously self-assured look at an American Muslim family, and the obligations and tangles that family and religion create.

Family and friends of Rafiq and Layla gather for the wedding of their oldest daughter, Hadia, who has broken tradition by marrying for love and not marrying a match arranged by her parents.

Hadia has always been headstrong, but she has made her parents proud by becoming a doctor, again, not a choice usually made by Muslim daughters. At Hadia's side as always is her younger sister, Huda, dutiful and proud, always looking to keep the peace, which is a quality necessary for her job as a teacher.

While the family is a bit nervous because of the wedding, the tension is increased because Hadia has invited her youngest sibling, their brother Amar, to the wedding. No one has seen him in three years. As the only boy, he was favored, but he was more sensitive, demanding, difficult, and always knew how to provoke feelings of love and dissension among his family members. Hadia wants him to attend the wedding but is also afraid of what unresolved issues he may bring with him.

How did the family get to this point? The book spends a great deal of time looking back, from the days before Rafiq and Layla married and their young family grew, to the days where the challenges began. It is a fascinating exploration of how the most innocent of actions or intentions can go spectacularly awry, and how one decision can cause significant ripples which affect many people. The book also moves beyond the wedding, looking at the aftereffects of events that happened that night.

The majority of the book alternates the narration between Layla, Hadia, and Amar, while later chapters are also narrated by Rafiq. You see the same events through different eyes, what those moments meant, and how they shape events around them. Within each chapter, there are recollections of various events at different times, so it does get a bit confusing trying to determine the time and place of what you're reading.

I found A Place for Us so emotionally rich, a fascinating study of a family struggling with how to reconcile the traditions and beliefs of their religion with the needs and wants of the ever-changing world, particularly post-9/11. All too often there was a depth to the characters I didn't initially expect—just when I believed a character was acting a particular way for a reason, with a different perspective, my assumptions were flipped.

I thought this was a terrific book, truly a self-assured literary debut by Fatima Farheen Mizra. I honestly never understood much about Muslim families beyond what I've seen on television and in movies, so I welcomed this opportunity to learn more. This book made me realize once again that no matter how different two families may be, the issues they face are often quite similar.

NetGalley, Crown Publishing Group, and SJP for Hogarth provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!
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This story of a Muslim Indian-American family in California now has a place in my top ten books of all time.  The story opens at eldest daughter Hadia´s wedding, where she anxiously awaits her younger brother Amar.  It then flashes back in multiple perspectives to the emotional ups and downs of this family.  This novel left deals with ideas of family, faith, tradition, and is sure to resonate with the reader.
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This book is stunning! I felt like I was reading a jigsaw puzzle. Each scene offered new piece of the puzzle to a slowly unfolding plot. This book is complex with each character offering insight into family dynamics and struggles that felt remarkably familiar. While I learned a lot about Muslim life, this book also shows that families, while different, often have similar struggles. This was amazingly well done for a debut, and I look forward to more by this author.
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A great book to delve into and learn about another culture. The author immediately grabs the reader's attention and proves that even when people seem different they are more alike than they seem.
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I’m in awe that this is Mirza’s first novel. Her writing is beautiful, elegant, quiet, reflective, and insightful. She captures family dynamics incredibly well and draws us deeply into the striking memories of each family member as they move through their lives together. The structure of this novel is unique: we start with an opening scene in the “present” day and then for at least half of the novel, we get single memories, events, and interactions between the family members out of order of chronology and from different points of view (although all 3rd person omniscient). This structure allows for Mirza to contemplate on the various ways in which the seemingly small interactions we have with people in our lives can potentially have a large impact on how we feel and think about others and ultimately affect the paths our lives take. The story does come to focus on the brother, Amar, and tracing why he has become estranged from his family over the years. But, we do get a good amount of omniscience from his mother, father, and older sister Hadia to understand not only their role in his estrangement but also how they feel about it. The other daughter, Huda, doesn’t get as much page time, and I was craving to know more about her and her point of view. The last section of the novel focuses too much on the father’s point of view (and shifts to the 2nd person) and I was wishing that Mirza would have weaved in all of the family members and their memories of the brother in that last section. I also think this novel is just a tad bit too long; some scenes were a little overworked and verbose. I sometimes got fatigued reading her prose, though I mostly relished it.

One of the aspects of this novel that I appreciate the most is Mirza’s depiction of Muslim beliefs, practices, and identities. It is the most nuanced and complex depiction of Islam that I’ve read, and I think a proper and thorough depiction like this is really needed right now in literature. Instead of focusing on terrorism and jihadism, Mirza instead decided to focus on the day to day lives of Muslims: their time at the mosque together, their rituals and celebrations within their communities and families, and the ways in which they look to the teachings of Islam to guide their lives. It's also worth mentioning that this family is an immigrant family, yet the story doesn't rely on any of the overused themes in immigrant literature; she stays squarely invested in capturing the dynamics of this complex family. She is an incredibly talented writer and I can’t wait to read her next novel.
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