A Place for Us

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

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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”There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere.

“There's a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time to spare,
Time to look, time to care,
Someday!
Somewhere.
We'll find a new way of living,
We'll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere.”
-- Somewhere (A Place For Us) - West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

A Muslim family struggles to maintain their religion, traditions and values, all the while hoping for acceptance in modern-day America. Living in California, Rafiq his wife, Layla, and their children, who are no longer children as this story begins - Hadia, Huda and Amar - and a wedding is imminent. A day of celebration, a joining together of Hadia and Tariq, while family and friends gather, witnessing, all in the name of love.

"The wedding was coming together wonderfully. People were arriving on time. There was a table for mango juice and pineapple juice and another for appetizers, replenished as soon as the items were lifted from the platter. White orchids spilled from tall glass vases on every table."

It was Amar’s duty to greet the arriving guests, and although he had stressed a bit beforehand at seeing some of these old, familiar faces, he hadn’t expected the soothing reassurance that came from being surrounded by these familiar faces, these smiles. Years have gone by since he’s seen any of them. Still, Amar is the lost son and brother, reckless, out-of-control, and there are reasons he has left this life behind. Facing them, facing those who have let him down as much as he’s let them down, is difficult for him. Each time, it takes a little bit more out of him. Most of all, he can’t bear to disappoint Hadia once again, and he can’t bear the thought of looking in his father’s eyes and seeing the unasked questions, seeing the disappointment. And the thought of seeing Amira, the girl he loved, loves still, is almost unbearable.

Hadia is marrying Tariq, but while the ceremony will be traditional, the marriage is not. Hadia did not want an arranged marriage, and so she is marrying the man she chose to love. Her one rebellion against the old ways, traditions.

As people revisit old memories, the story moves back and forth in time, sharing the stories of these characters. Rafiq and Layla’s story, and the stories of their children. Drugs, alcohol, 9/11 and how that affects them, arranged marriages vs. those based on an existing love, how their beliefs are refashioned around these changes, and others.

The father, Rafiq, upon seeing his son Amar, revisits his life. The good, the bad and even the unintentional mistakes made, and tries to see a way to re-make the past, to patch the old breaks, polish the rough surfaces away. To find a way to a new beginning for all of them, and he views this all through a lens of his own faith, and his vision of the future coloured by hope. He knows that the sadness will always be a part of the past, and so his focus is on what lies ahead.

I thought this was lovely, heartbreaking at times, but a lovely story that shares sincere and complex feelings, values and beliefs, both religious and personal. My heart broke for this family, for each of them in turn. I loved the themes of faith and home, and that this book slowly reveals how much more alike we all are than not, reminding us that diversity ought to be embraced, and I loved it for that.

I wanted to read this after reading my goodreads friend Diane’s wonderful review, please check it out: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

This is Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel, as well as the first book of Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint at Hogarth. What a wonderful ‘entrance’ for SJP!



Pub Date: 12 JUN 2018


Many thanks for the ARC provided by SJP for Hogarth / Crown Publishing
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4.5 but just can't round up. Where is that 1/2 star when you really want it?!

The setting: An Indian-American Muslim family in California. Two daughters, one son. The wedding of the oldest daughter--a break from tradition as not arranged, but a love match. Will the estranged son show up?

"In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family's past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent's faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals."

I really enjoyed this book primarily for two reasons:

I learned a lot about Muslim cultural traditions.
It was well-written and extremely powerful.

The book is consumed with the struggle to maintain one's beliefs and traditional culture in a modern and different society. Family, family, family. And love, loss, expectations, honor, betrayal, tradition, conflicts, faith, struggles.

Hadia is the bride--stellar student, eventually a medical doctor. Huda, the other sister becomes a teacher. Layla, the mother--marries Rafiq [arranged] and follows him to America; she must make many adjustments from her life in India. Though we learn at the start that Amar, the youngest, is estranged from his family, there is a lot of back and forth and the reason/s are not revealed all at once. From the beginning however, we know Amar struggles to fit in--with his family, classmates, and the world in general. The one person he feels safe with...

The various characters have a voice in explaining their view of events and family dynamics. However, the last part focuses solely on Rafiq [father and husband]; his version/explanation is heartbreaking. 

There is just so much in this book to grapple with. Cultural expectations in a different [country] context. Parental expectations. Society. Family dynamics. Male vs. female. What is doing enough? Or, not enough. And even when Hadia finds Tariq--her love match--there are still cultural differences. He is not Shia and he and his siblings hadn't learned Urdu [though his parents did]; it is a language she feels comfort in because she used it at home. 

No spoiler alert but did no one question why Hadia named her son Abbas? 

Though at times I found this book riveting, other times I thought it a bit repetitive and maybe could have been a tad shorter. Still, as a debut novel--I can't wait to see Mirza's next book.
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A Place For Us is a first novel for Fatima Farheen Mirza, and a first literary work acquired by Sarah Jessica Parker as editorial director for SJP for Hogarth.

This is the story of a Muslim Indian American family, and their community, living in California.  
It begins with the wedding of Rafiq and Layla’s daughter Hadia’s wedding, a marriage based on love instead of the tradition.  This wedding brings back together a family of five, including an estranged younger brother, Amar.  The novel goes back and forth in time through the years of the children’s growing to adulthood.
The author did such a great job of of exploring the issues of love and loss, familial and cultural expectations, honor, betrayal, faith and tradition... and each characters perspective on the different situations as the story unfolded.  
I loved this family and will be thinking about them for quite some time, I’m sure.

Thank you to NetGalley, SJP for Hogarth, and especially to Fatima for a beautiful first novel!!!
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Sorry just not a book that held my interest. I gave up on it and started reading other titles.
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This book shines on every level: sentence after sentence is beautiful and precise. The characters are complicated and sympathetic, the ideas are sweeping and profound, but are never too overt. It’s a rare novel that is as accomplished in its meaning as it is in its storytelling while also succeeding wildly on the language level as well! A novel to lose yourself in and then reflect upon again and again.
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I loved, loved this book!  

This is the fascinating, tender story of an Indian-American Muslim family living in California.  The parents,  Rafiq and Layla, are devout Muslims raising their children, Hadia, Huda and Amar to continue their tradition.  The narrative of their lives goes back and forth in time and from the viewpoints of both parents, and siblings Hadia and Amar.   The book opens with the wedding of Hadia, who is marrying for love and not as the result of a parent orchestrated match.   We see how the strained relations between Rafiq and Amar, continue to affect the entire family despite their deep love for each other.   Throughout the book we are shown how the love these parents and siblings all feel for one another can also cause them terrible pain.   I felt as if this story could go on and on so when I reached the last page I was shocked that it was over, but this beautifully written story had said all it had to say.  

This was a very well written and engrossing novel which I would very strongly recommend to anyone who enjoys reading superb fiction.  I will remember this book for a very long time.
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Great first book from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint. This is a powerful novel about family and the choices we make that impact all of us years later and form our regrets. Will be a great selection for book groups.
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Absolutely stunning book. I was absorbed in the characters and plot, I simply couldn't put the book down. The characters truly stick with you long after the turn of the last page. Mirza takes the reader on a detailed journey by showing different views of faith, love and family. This book will stake its claim emotionally, a perfect story dissecting family life, old and new ways, expectations and disappointments, most of all love. 

Wonderful book, Mirza is a force to reckon. Must read with all certitude.
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A stunning debut novel. Heartbreaking and beautiful. An incredible story of love and family dynamics.
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A tiny piece of my heart broke after reading the ending to this story about a Muslim family living in California. Two daughters and a son are born to parents who follow the Islamic religion and ideals. One of the children, however, went through life feeling that he/she didn't belong, ending up following their own path.

A story about family, loss, and betrayal, that overcomes the deep love that the members have for one another.  Written with emotion and sensitivity, the book takes on issues that can affect any family of any religion. I enjoyed this book, but found myself skimming pages at the end to find out what happened.
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