Cover Image: Radiant Fugitives

Radiant Fugitives

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Ahmed crafts a tender tale of family, faith, identity, and connection to space with writing that is lyrical and pulls you in.
Was this review helpful?
We all have to make choices in life and deal with the consequences, but what to make of it when those we love and the world we live in seem to reject us? A devastatingly elegant novel about loss and love, about personal and universal tragedies, RADIANT FUGITIVES is a book I couldn’t put down and won’t be able to easily forget. The Hussein family is fractured. Seema was alienated from her family after coming out as lesbian, and it’s only when she’s about to deliver her son that her ailing mother Nafeesa and conflicted sister Tahera visit in San Francisco to try and reconnect. No one escapes Ahmed’s tenderness despite the deep pain swirling around; he writes with precision, considering each side of these characters with care, from the perspective of Seema’s infant son Ishraaq. Leading up to Ishraaq’s birth, in Part One, the women approach each other and start to embrace fond memories of their shared past only to hit a barrier and shy away or turn with bitterness. My heart hurt each time this happened. Part Two finds us back in time when Seema and Ishraaq’s father, Bill, meet amid the chaos and heartbreak of anti-war protests in 2003 and the lead-up to Obama’s election in 2008. Then, back in 2010 in Part 3, the fevered rush toward the end, Ishraaq’s birth, the final heart-shattering moment in which my love for this book is solidified. RADIANT FUGITIVES is an excellently crafted book, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Thanks to Counterpoint and NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a sucky for a multi generational family saga, and Radiant Fugitives is a good one. I'm shocked that this is a debut, because the writing is fantastic. The narration was super unique. You know right off the bat this is going to be a sad novel, but I found it so worth a read.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Counterpoint Press for the Reader's Copy!

Now available.

Much like Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children," Nawaaz Ahmed's "Radiant Fugitive" starts on the night of a catastrophic birth. Narrated by the fetus of Seema, the story toggles between three distinct female narratives, exploring what it means to be South Asian American in the modern era. There's the mother, Seema, a 30 something year old bisexual political activist living in San Francisco who is struggling between her disillusionment with the political establishment and her ever growing list of lovers. Then there's her sister, Tahera, a stuanch Muslim woman who is trying to raise her kids in the "right" way. Finally, we have the grandmother, Nafeesa, who is struggling with a debilitating chronic illness and trying to hold onto what remains of her family. 

Emotional, dramatic, with a strong flair for Keats and lengthy anatomic discussions, this book definitely kept me intrigued the entire time. While I didn't always love the second person, it did allow me to delve into the many POVs presented in the piece. In some ways, the ending did feel anticlimactic because we already knew it from the beginning and because it felt too neatly boxed in for such an otherwise messy piece. What struck me the most is the way Ahmed created unlikable traits in each character - Seema's fickle mods, Tahera's jealousy, Nafeesa's passivity - and still made them humane. Incredible character driven tale.
Was this review helpful?
The definition of fugitive is twofold: As a noun it means one who is fleeing, and as an adjective, something fleeting. This duality is at the core of “Radiant Fugitives,” the debut novel of Nawaaz Ahmed — a computer scientist-turned-Lambda Literary Fellow (among many other accolades) — to be released Aug. 3 by Counterpoint Press.

Spanning decades, but grounded within the frame of a single week in Obama-era San Francisco, three women in a Muslim Indian family reunite, possibly for the last time, under a specter of life and death: The mother, Nafeesa Hussein, is dying, and has not seen either of her estranged daughters, Seema and Tahera, in years. Their disparate lives and time apart have grated on their family ties, but the impending birth of Seema’s baby coupled with tragedy, both foretold and unexpected, could be what brings them together again.

Ahmed wrote the book over 10 years, catalyzed by a dream of three women grasping at reconciliation during a political era of “Hope” slogans that weren’t able to deliver all their promises. The story, told in three parts with a prelude and a coda, is staggered into narrative vignettes that are not quite chapters and narrated by Ishraaq, Seema’s yet-unborn son. He is both new to the world and privy to it, as he pieces together how this family fell apart, but with no clear solution as to how they can reunite.
As fog swirls around them, these women, and the relationships to others they have forged for themselves, ricochet against the larger social and political systems at play in a city that often refuses to acknowledge its failures. In other words, the story couldn’t have been set anywhere else.

“I had been thinking of other places, but I felt like this one just leaped out of all the other options,” says Ahmed, who lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade. “It’s actually the longest I’ve lived in any city, from my childhood with me moving to various places for my schooling. And so San Francisco was the place that called home.”

The bulk of the book takes readers across the Bay Area against backdrops of the elections of Barack Obama as U.S. president and Kamala Harris as the city’s district attorney, yet sullied by the passing of California’s Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage, and the continuation of the U.S.’s War on Terror. Seema, the novel’s protagonist, was the “prodigal daughter” of her upper middle-class Muslim Indian family in Chennai, India, a gifted orator and performer who realizes as a teenager that she is gay.

Revealing this to her father leads to her immediate excommunication from the family, beginning the family’s shift to the United States, as years later, younger sister Tahera will migrate to establish her career and family in Texas, though for vastly different reasons.

Seema’s pregnancy is the result of a parting encounter with her ex-husband Bill, an Oakland native and son of a Black Panther, who never knew his father. Politics and campaigns are what bring them together, but as this past year and this past presidency has shown, they can tear people apart swiftly, irreversibly. Like with Seema, Obama’s hesitancy on Prop. 8 and protecting LGBTQIA+ rights weighed heavily on Ahmed. The decade-plus of progress since then cannot be forgotten, especially after a year where so many were left behind.

“I was trying to think of the novel as something bigger than our story about Obama’s election,” he says. “The summer of 2008, we had this huge, momentous change that was promised. And we all got caught up in it. At the same time, I couldn’t vote; I was not a citizen. And I remember wanting for Obama, but I also wanted to know [about] one of the campaigns that was going on at the same time, [‘No on Prop 8’]. That particular night Obama wins, ‘No on Prop. 8’ actually fails. This story of these two sisters is the story of this country as well. How do we learn to live with these divisions?”

On the cusp of existence, Ishraaq’s grasp of the world is informed by the philosophies of two schools of thought, the Quran and the poetry of John Keats, both embodied by his aunt, Tahera. As her perspective of events unfolds, her love of both Romantic poetry and her faith are coping mechanisms for the inadequacies she feels within her family, even in Seema’s absence, and both help her build an identity independent of them. And without knowing it, she lends these philosophies to her nephew.

“Here are these forces that tried to impose their will on us, and here’s what we use in order to try to make sense of them,” Ahmed says. “I was very interested in these various texts that we draw from, whether they’re speeches or poetry or parts of the Quran, even songs, or small phrases that suddenly seem to make sense to us in the fabric of our lives. And those are what I felt we use in order to counter these other forces. And it was necessary for me to try to leave both of them together.”

Despite revealing Seema’s fate at the novel’s opening, more than 360 pages can’t prepare the reader for a complicated ending, in which no one emerges as fully culpable or wholly innocent. While the week of Ishraaq’s birth is barbed with miscommunications, resentment and emotional wounds reopened between mother, daughters and sisters, love is palpable throughout. There are no forces of evil to reveal and blame, no tidy condemnation of any one character’s actions. There are simply the circumstances we must confront, withstand, live through until it’s our time, and those we choose to do it with.

“I do have that scene a little bit in the future where Ishraaq thinks of his cousins, where they create this rainbow out of a hose,” Ahmed says. “And I want to leave the readers with that, that there is this beautiful thing that the next generation can create. And whether we get to do it or not, maybe depends a lot on what the current generation does. How do we allow them to be their best selves?”
Was this review helpful?
I really didn't enjoy this book. To be fair to everyone, I read about 30% and really couldn't get into it. Something about the perspective of the narrator was not appealing to me. I think I'll go back and try to read it at a later date and see if I like it anymore. The description was appealing but for me the book didn't work as well.
Was this review helpful?
Thematically, this book was very good. I enjoyed what it had to say and the concepts that it chose to focus on. The characters were interesting and well rounded. It was well written and engaging throughout its entirety. That said, I did not like the format of the in utero narrator. I think it stunted some of the narration, where an outside omniscient POV would have better sufficed. 

Overall enjoyable, and one I cannot wait to recommend to patrons. I think it will go over well.
Was this review helpful?
I was tempted to open this review by saying that Nawaaz Ahmed's Radiant Fugitives is *THE* great American novel that we need at the moment, but that might be edging toward hyperbole (it also might not be). I can, however, say with certainty that Radiant Fugitives is *A* great American novel that we need at this moment. Radiant Fugitives is full of tensions, just as the U.S. is at the moment—the tensions of culture wars, of gender identity, of immigration, of faith, of family structures.

There are all kinds of gut-wrenching novels out there about divided families. But I'm going to be honest—and judgemental—here. Most of those are novels about middle-class white families, and middle-class white families have gotten all the playtime they need. It's time to look at other kinds of families both to broaden the lives and cultures that are represented and that we're exposed to, and also to remind us that differences *ARE* differences, but they can *ALSO* be commonalities.

Three women provide the heart of this novel, all originally from an observant, but not overly so, Muslim family in Chennai, India—
• Seema, living in San Francisco and cut off from her family at the insistence of her father after she came out to him, a once-married lesbian about to give birth to a we-got-carried-away-signing-the-divorce-papers baby, who works in PR and is campaigning for Kamala Harris during her run for the position of California Attorney General.
• Tahera, Seema's younger sister, a devout Muslim and an OB-GYN, living in Texas, who has built her life around her work as a physician, her family, and the local mosque—deeply uncomfortable with Seema's life choices, but visiting her in San Francisco because she wants time with...
• Nafeesa, mother of Seema and Tahera, cowed by her pompous and controlling husband, who has defied his wishes and traveled from Chennai to San Francisco to be with Seema when the baby comes and who is dying of cancer. Nafeesa cannot understand the choices of either daughter, both of whom she perceives as deliberately building lives that will be difficult and invite others' hostility.

Our narrator is Ishraaq the child—still in utero—that Seema will die giving birth to. And that's not a spoiler. Ishraaq tells us at the novel's beginning that his mother has died and he will never have a chance to know her. Ishraaq relates this story in second person, addressing his grandmother Nafeesa, trying to explain Seema and Tahera's volatile interactions.

At this point, I'm hoping you can see what fertile ground Ahmed has built this novel on because there's either nothing more to say or there are thousands of things more to say, and I'm going to go with the former. No matter who you are, I'm pretty sure you'll find yourself feeling both like an insider and an outsider in this novel and that you will be deeply uncomfortable at times. Maybe that's not the usual kind of "sell" to give a five-star novel, but it is the best sell I can offer for Radiant Fugitives. We need novels to push and teach and surprise us. I can promise Radiant Fugitives will do all those things.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Debut novelist Ahmed has done something special with this book. He has chosen to tell a story of rigidity and rage, of tenderness and forgiveness, and of sadness and loss from the point of view of a perinatal infant whose mother has died in trying to give him life.

That is a bold decision. And it's not a spoiler because there's no way you could possibly miss it...the author says it plain and straight on the first page. I spent the first few pages a little unsure of the wisdom of it, because it will inevitably lead to the Satanic Second Person sooner or later. (Sooner as it turns out.) But the choice, like all bold gambles, carries a certain momentum that either weighs the reader down or drags him along in its wake. I was dragged. I wasn't sure I would be. When the infant addresses his grandmother as "Grandmother," I confess I winced and even pooh-poohed the idea. I was too taken in by the way Seema, the "hasbian" (in the ugly, dismissive formulation I've heard lesbians use towards one who marries a man...why not "bisexual" I've always wondered) mother of this child, was continually struggling to find her footing in the narrative...bad choice for a narrator; Nafeesa, the terminally ill grandmother, was too cowed and rendered voiceless by her entire life's denied course; Tahera, the rigidly religious sister, was too ragey and resentful. No one else matters, their quiet places in the story don't ripple strongly enough to compete with the women and their unborn male relative. I definitely include the father in this. Poor bastard.

Back to our narrator, Ishraaq (meaning "Dawn"). He is the right choice to tell us this story because, like all infants, it's the story he inherits by his simple act of drawing breath. So my cavils were set aside, and the story progressed...familiar things happened. For example, I recognized the divide between the sisters as superficially being about their differing faith-walks but really being about the disfiguring jealousy of sisters denied the place they thought was theirs. Sibling rivalry was always going to rip their relationship to shreds. Their mother wasn't capable of standing up for herself, still less her daughters, against their forceful father and his ungovernable passions for poetry and control. Keats isn't used as a love language in their family so much as an armory of unresolvable's their father's favorite work, and their mother was bludgeoned with it despite her love of her native Urdu and its vast, beautiful literature.

As an adult, Ishraaq's mother is an out lesbian. That goes over badly with her devout Muslim father. Mother, of course, submits her actions to her husband's control. They cut their heretical daughter out of their lives. And she, for her part, builds quite a world for herself in activist politics, while her dutiful and Muslim younger sister becomes a family no slouch in the brains department. Such a lot of anger for Big Sis from quite naturally fuels her religious rejection of Seema for her lifestyle. In his role as narrator, Ishraaq doesn't dwell on the particulars of his mother's sex life, which I think was a good authorial call. It doesn't feel to me as though anything in the story requires us to follow the characters into their bedrooms. I noted the fact that we mostly hadn't, and then thought, well, what a great way to make use of such a narrator!

What I didn't find so believable was the way Ishraaq was sometimes omniscient, discussing things that would be impossible for him to know because the belly he was inhabiting was elsewhere. A conversation between his father and grandmother marked the first time I was jolted into awareness of the issue. It's here that the reader will stall out..."this is impossible, forget it"...or will reach the accommodation that I did: "we're assuming a consciousness is Ishraaq, not the infant flesh is Ishraaq, and the story ends when he's mere moments old." I'll get past my collywobbles re: magical narrators if there's at least a shred of a line to cling to as I suspend my disbelief. It was a close-run thing, though.

Events happen that ground us in the US of 2010. Obamacare, Kamala Harris as a candidate for Attorney General, mosque vandalism...all struck resonant chords in me. I was also taken by setting the narrative in San Francisco for the most part. I loved the atmospheric descriptions of San Francisco's fog belt, and the evocation of Dolores Park. The use of color in the book is quite elegant...a deep, unrepentant purple sky! is the food the characters prepare, offer, consume. There's a much-needed specificity to these moments. A great deal of the book feels less moored, grounded, because it's a flashback. The past that Ishraaq narrates, or observes I suppose, and then describes, is of necessity less vibrant than a directly shown and not told timeline would be. In many ways this choice was made when Author Ahmed chose his narrator. There really is no other practical way to tell a story from that point of view.

There are secondary characters with arcs that will shock you. There are characters whose "it's all my fault"s rang in my ears as solipsistic and self-important. There are moments of sheer blithering idiocy when decisions that should've been postponed are instead made and made badly. And that's one of the best things about the book to me. I enjoy a story with real-feeling stakes...death is a real stake, and there's more death in the book than is at first evident. The "radiant fugitives" of the title, what elicits that particular descriptive phrase, make for one of the book's set it down and say "wooow" moments.

But even the death serves its purpose. People are never more themselves than when they are around death. The selves they are, all too often, are not the selves they want to be. And it's this immense tension that gives Radiant Fugitives its narrative drive, its memorable ending, its full measure of sadness and rage, love and compassion. It's a book that forgives its characters for being less than their best selves and giving less than their all when they're called to step up. The ending will strike some as overdone, it did me, but it was most certainly an organic, honest ending to the story we started out reading. That makes the journey a good and worthwile one, and as a debut novel, one of above-average skill to create.

But, and I mean this, someone at Counterpoint needs to fix "Irvine, Texas" to read "Irving" because <I>Irvine</i>'s in California. <B>Irving</b>'s in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Was this review helpful?
You know from the start that things are not going to end well for Seema, the mother of the yet to be born narrator of this unusual novel.  Set primarily in San Francisco, it's the story of Seema, her mother Nafeesa, and her sister Tahera, Indian Muslims from Chenai. Nafeesa and Tahera have come to support Seema in the last weeks of her pregnancy - a pregnancy she never anticipated.   Seema left India after her devout father cast her out for loving women.  Deeply devout Tahera, a physician, lives in Irvine, Texas with her family.  Some of the most interesting sections of the novel involve Tahera and her son. Know that midway through the novel, it devolves for too long into a recitation of events of the 2008 election, which some might find interesting but frankly I remember it and would have preferred a look Tahera's life at the time.  The atmospherics are wonderful- you'll smell the spices and feel the tension in the air- and the characters vivid.  The ending is painful.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.  It takes a bit of patience but it ultimately a rewarding read.
Was this review helpful?
A new author who has written a beautiful family saga.Characters who come alive families who are divided at times whose lives struggles drew me into their world.Will be recommending following this talented author.#netgalley #counterpointpress.
Was this review helpful?
Thank You to NetGalley and Counterpoint Press for gifting me with an ARC of Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. 

This is an impressive and creative debut chronicling the lives of three women, two sisters and their mother, as they reunite after a long estrangement. Seema, headstrong and carefree is banished from her family home in India, when her father discovers she prefers girls to boys, as the time comes to arrange her marriage. Her mother, Nafeesa, meekly respects her husband’s decision, which ultimately leads to years of guilt and regret. Younger sister Tehera, unaware of what has caused her sister to flee India,  feeling abandoned and betrayed by her older sister, turns to religion to fill the emptiness in her life. When Seema finds herself unexpectedly pregnant she reaches out to her mother, who is facing her own mortality. Wanting to repair the damage in their relationship, Nafeesa, flys to San Francisco to aid Seema with her pregnancy. Daughter Tehera, who now lives in Texas, is married to a religious Muslim man, where they are raising two children in the aftermath of 9/11. Tehera, a doctor discovering her mother is ill, wants to spend time with Nafeesa, even though it means traveling to San Francisco and seeing Seema, who’s lifestyle she vehemently disapproves of.

The story starts at the end and then shifts and circles through the past decades to fill in the gaps of these women’s lives. It’s a story of regrets, jealousies, misunderstood beliefs, moral judgments and religious ideologies. Nawaaz Ahmed writes beautifully and honestly. He skillfully voices his female characters in authenticity and believability. I did find the middle third, a bit too long and I was bored at times with the subplot of Obama’s 2008 election campaign.  I understand why he chose to frame the Obama election into the storyline but for me it felt forceful. 

The secondary characters were all interesting and well designed and I appreciated the diversity and sincerity they played in the story. Overall, I found this book compelling and moving and definitely impressive as a debut. I am eager to see what Ahmed writes next, as I believe he has a long career ahead.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoy reading debut novels because I am always excited to discover new authors and their work. And while I appreciate what Nawaaz Ahmed was trying to achieve with his debut Radiant Fugitives, it really did not work for me. I was immediately put off by the use of a fetus/unborn baby- I give Ahmed points for creativity but the narration was at most times weird and at some times, uncomfortable. It felt strange when the narrator would address his family members with "you"- I was constantly taken out of the narrative because it was clunky and awkward. While I enjoyed the exploration of relationships and some of the prose was beautiful, the reading experience was so uneven that I vacillated between being bored and being slightly uncomfortable. I think Ahmed's concept was a good one but the execution left me wanting much more.
Was this review helpful?
Radiant Fugitives is an ambitious debut novel with an unusual premise: it’s a story told predominantly in utero by Ishraaq, a sort of omniscient first-person narrator, allowed entry into his relatives’ perspectives before he takes his first breath. We know from the beginning that his mother, Seema, has died during labor, a piece of knowledge that casts a shadow over the book. It’s then that Ishraaq takes us back, unveiling the pasts of Seema and of the rest of his family—his aunt Tahera, his grandmother Nafeesa, and his father Bill—to consider what has led them to this point.

What’s revealed is a complex story that made me ache: it’s full of misunderstandings and missed connections that show the way these characters love each other and yet hurt each other, over and over again. It’s set against the backdrop of the candidacy and election of Barack Obama as President, driven by hope and (all too often) disappointment from those who have dared to hope.

Seema and Tahera immigrated to the United States from India. Seema left home when, after coming out to her family, her father exiled her. Her sister Tahera, a doctor, moved to the U.S. because of her marriage to a man with whom she forges a family who adheres strictly to Islam. It has been many years since their mother Nafeesa saw Seema, but now they’re united because Nafeesa insists that she must help Seema through the end of her pregnancy . . . and also because Nafeesa is dying.

The narrative weaves together these characters’ lives, circling around and back through time, until we delve deeply into their thoughts and feelings, alternately empathizing with them and frustrated by them, by their stubbornness and their inability to reach outside of their own vulnerability to each other. There’s much to admire in the way that Ahmed explores identity, in the ways that Seema is embraced by some and exiled by others because of her sexuality and that Tahera faces the same treatment because of her faith. The fact that those inconsistent reactions occur both among strangers and within their family is painful.

While there’s much to love and admire about this book, I did find the pacing to be slow, and I took several breaks from it to read other books. I think part of my issue is because of the internal nature of the narrative, and part is because the book is, often, quite sad. Still, Ahmed is considering here questions that we are—and should be—asking, about who we choose to govern and why, about who and what we welcome and accept, and about how each of us shapes an identity because of and against our families. 

Behind it all is Ishraaq, a character who loves his family with such compassion and empathy and understanding that he forgives all, sharing their stories as utterly beautiful and utterly alive, even in tragedy. The contradiction inherent in the title Radiant Fugitives is borne out beautifully through Nawaaz Ahmed’s novel.
Was this review helpful?
Radiant Fugitives is not a happy novel. One learns very early on that things are not going in end well. But what an emotional ride to that ending! This book is getting a fair bit of buzz, and I get it. I blew through this book as it is easy to become very invested in the lives of the women featured. The center is Seema, a heavily pregnant woman living in San Francisco. She is visited by her mother and sister. Seema is estranged from her family after coming out as a lesbian, and her father disowns her. Her sister Tahera has become a devout Muslim who disapproves of Seema's choices. Their mother has a terminal illness and she is trying to reconcile her relationship with Seema and between her two daughters. There is so much complexity in these women and one can understand their choices and feelings. While the relationship between the three women is the tour de force of the book, secondary relationships are highlighted, most notably (and surprisingly not weirdly) the narration at times by Seema's soon to be born child. Seema's previous and current relationships with women and her marriage to a man are also discussed. 

I dove into this book and was completely engaged. The one part that took me out of it was there was a large middle portion that focused primarily on the relationship between her and her husband interspersed with their volunteering for the Obama campaign. It really got into quite a bit of detail about her complicated feelings around Obama, which did give her character nuance, but I was really missing her mother and sister's narratives, so in the final portion when it turns back to the three of them, I was enthralled. The emotional ending is not unexpected but still packed a wallop. I am blown away that this is a debut novel and I cannot wait to read what Ahmed comes up with next. 

Thank you to Counterpoint Press and NetGalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Radiant Fugitives is an incredible debut novel from Nawaaz Ahmed. Following an Indian family struggling with issues of modernity, globalization, and religion, Radiant Fugitives is an incredibly complex and nuanced treatment with enormous compassion for its central characters. Ahmed has an impressive narrative voice and successfully integrates western and eastern texts, cultural and religious, to enhance his story’s relevance and reach. 

Set primarily in 2010 San Francisco, the novel initially follows Seema Hussein, a successful fundraiser for Democratic politicians in the bay area, as she navigates the arrival of her estranged younger sister, Tahera, and terminally ill mother, Nafeesa. The story is told from the perspective of Seema’s unborn son, Ishraaq, in the final days of Seema’s pregnancy. The novel itself branches off between each woman’s individual story and how they have been shaped by the family patriarch’s decision to disown Seema after she comes out as queer. Seema seeks out a new family in the Bay Area, embracing American culture and political activism, while Tahera chooses to delve deeper into her faith, becoming a fiercely devout Muslim woman living with her husband and two young children in central Texas. Nafeesa struggles with her impending death and sees this visit as a way to rectify the wrongs committed by her husband and her own complicity in following through with his actions against Seema. The novel is like a pressure cooker, culminating to an explosive emotional and tragic end.

I was most impressed with Ahmed’s ability to find empathy for all of his characters and their struggles. Nafeesa, Tahera, and Seema have all been wrong and victimized in their lives, and the interplay between homophobia and Islamophobia in a post 9/11 America is smart and reads authentically. That the novel is narrated by Ishraaq adds a level of magic, hope, and ethereality to the plot. This narration also helps a grievous and tragic end go down smoothly, and leaves the reader with some sanguinity in spite of the, at times, sorrowful content.
Was this review helpful?
Stunning family drama. So many deep issues like religion and sexuality are dissected through characters personal and political experiences. I loved it.
Was this review helpful?
A beautifully written novel that shines a light on the struggle of a family with differing values who are in conflict. The parallel to the American political divide is emphasized by the subplots relating the two Obama presidential campaigns. The narration of the book is done by an unborn/newly born child, at times in the second person voice, and I found it awkward and unnecessary.
Was this review helpful?
Family sagas are some of my absolute favorite types of books!
This was incredibly well written, and had some amazing characters that I needed to learn everything about. It was tragic, but I couldn’t put it down.  

The second person writing style wasn’t my absolute favorite, but I got used to it. Although, I do wish that the story was told from a different perspective than Seema’s unborn child.
Was this review helpful?
I adored this book.  I generally love stories about sisters and this one was amazing.  Two very different individuals who haven’t spent any time together since childhood are thrown together in this book for their dying mother’s sake.  The setting is awesome; San Franciso and it’s always in the background, especially the sky.   The narrative perspective is different and very intriguing.  The unborn son of Seema describes the scenes as they unfold.  Mostly the second person is used to move the story along from the view of each of his three foremothers.  The sibling rivalry is raw, honest and real.  Each daughter has made different choices regarding lifestyle and more specifically their shared faith.  There are flashbacks to life in India and the immigrant experience as educated women.   Lots of recent history is mentioned and the perspective of a queer Indian Muslim woman on Obama’s election is very interesting. The election of Kamala Harris was fun to read about too.   I also appreciated learning about the choice to be a practicing Muslim in contemporary America.  Sometimes the voice from the womb waxes philosophical and approaches a prayer-like tone.  Will he be born of envy, rivalry or hope?   It worked for me but did stall the plot a bit.  As a mother and a sister, I can totally relate to all three of the main characters and I felt close to each.  Nobody is better or more “right” than the other.  We’re all doing the best we can.  Ultimately, even family lets us down, the unit and its bonds affect everything we do.  Sisters will always be sisters even when friends and lovers come and go.  The writing was amazing.  I was quite surprised to see the author was male as the experience of women was so easy to identify with.  The scene describing Seema’s performance to explain her choices to her dad and her mother’s profession of her love for Seema were juxtaposed in a magical way that was so effective.  This book and its characters will stay with me for a long time.  The ending surprised me but was satisfying.  Thank you NetGalley for introducing me to a new author.  I will be on the lookout for the next book from Nawaaz Ahmed.
Was this review helpful?