Cover Image: We Meant Well

We Meant Well

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Member Reviews

**NetGalley and the Publisher allowed me the chance to ARC read this book but that does not determine how I review this book**

We Meant Well by Erum Shazia Hasan is a well written and really pushes you to think more. This book is narrated by the FMC, Maya.  Maya works remotely for an orphanage when one day she gets a call to come in due to r@pe allegations against a co-worker. 

The ending was a bit predictable but somehow  was still able to shock me a little. 
Could not give more praise to this debut author? Book out Aprill 11, 2023
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I really had no idea what to expect from “We Meant Well”;  I was blown after I read it! I enjoy books that give me an insight into different cultures and countries around the world. Aid workers have a difficult task working in developing countries and the mountains they must surmount to achieve success can be overwhelming at times. As in any job, when people are far from home and in isolated locations, things are bound to happen: scandals and gossip can be the order of the day. Living and working in close quarters must be difficult. Add the first world culture to this and you may have a completely different set of values and morals. Ms Hasan brought all these issues out into the open. She also handled the topic of sexual assault with a sensitivity that isn’t always brought to the fore. Details were not unnecessarily written about and that didn’t detract from the story. 
The life of aid workers was not glorified; it was brought to the reader realistically. Some workers were burnt out and justifiably so. 
Our main character Maya, an American, was brought to the village to sort a problem within the ranks of her organization. Along with this problem were an unrest in her personal life. Hard to separate these two things when you’re isolated and a bit overwhelmed with the ongoing situation.
The book moved at a leisurely pace and I was quite happy with that. At the end of it all, I was really glad I had chosen to read “ We Meant Well”. Great insight into a different way of life in an impoverished country.

Thank you to ECW Press, NetGalley and to Erum Shazia Hasan for giving me the chance to read this beautifully written book.
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I can't tell you how much I loved this ARC! I think it's one of the best books I'll read in 2023. 

We Meant Well is a debut novel by Canadian author Erum Shazia Hasan. This beautifully written novel follows Maya a young American-Bangledeshi woman, who has given up aid work in a fictional African country for a management position in the NGO. After years of working with orphans, child soldiers and sexual assault survivors, she moves back to L.A, gets married, has a child and lives a "normal" life, albeit not a happy one.⁠ She is never truly at home in LA or in her work village of Likanni.⁠
Maya is called back to Likanni to do damage control for the charity. A white employee has been accused of a horrific act and the company wants Maya to get to the bottom of it. Local tensions are very high but the people of Likanni love and trust Bigabosse as they call her. ⁠
This book is packed with insight into the successes and failures of Western aid in developing countries. Hasan handles traumatic incidents in the book very sensitively.⁠ The problems are so complex and Hasan's writing shows every layer given her experience in many UN agencies as a Sustainable Development Consultant.. 
⁠Thank you to @netgalley and @ECWPress for the privilege of reading this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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We Meant Well had an intriguing premise and certainly succeeded in dissecting the role of the 'humanitarian'. I enjoyed the immediate style of narration and the slow build of tension -- although we understand that something bad has happened the novel snakes its way around to addressing it. The book left me with much to think about and respected that it asks more questions than it can answer; the strange power dynamics of those who give up their lives to 'help' the less fortunate but then want something back set an eerie tone. Unfortunately, I don't think the plotting was as strong. I didn't gel at all with the romance and the ending didn't quite land in the way I hoped it was.
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We Meant Well is a title that truly fits this story. From the beginning to end the storytelling draws you through and keeps you turning the pages
 The characters and settings are so well written and the delicate topic.of rape was handled with such grace but provided the insight of another culture and how delicate the balance between helping and hurting can be. It was well written, insightful and very easy to read. The ending was twist, hope you give this one a read. You will not be disappointed.
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Engaging, well written and well paced. I read We Meant Well in two sittings. It’s a thought-provoking, emotional story that digs deep into many questions surrounding western influence and involvement in other countries and cultures. Maya, the protagonist is dispatched to investigate a rape allegation, but her own personal circumstances muddy the waters.
Thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for the Chance to read an ARC. We Meant Well is published in the UK on 11 April 2023.
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We Meant Well by Erum Shazia Hasan is beautifully written, with well-drawn characters, I read it in one sitting to know the ending and WoW what a conclusion it was. I was left stunned and delighted and thinking about it long afterwards. 
This book raises ethical questions for the reader about providing aid and about what to do when things go terribly wrong. The answers are not easy. We Meant Well is wrestles with the question of whether foreign aid groups do as much good as they do harm.

Hasan, is a Sustainable Development Consultant for various UN agencies, giving the book a unique and valuable perspective. 

Thank you #netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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We’re all Maya at some point. Unreliable narrator, because all humans are, and how she shook her confidence and her ability to actually help people.
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Thank you for granting me access to this incredible novel.
The premise drew me in and I was a bit skeptical that the topic at the heart of the novel might not get treated well but damn, I'm in awe. The pacing of the novel is done so well and I appreciated how everything unfolded. Also, the prose is so gorgeous!
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A fascinating topic for a novel the setting is an unnamed African country and the dichotomy between the aid workers aims and needs and those of the local population 
I personally really wanted to know exactly where the book was set but the author chose to not make this clear I even googled the towns mentioned but only found pages about the novel 
I was immediately grabbed by the storyline and wanted to know more and enjoyed the pace the novel moves along at a fast rate keeping my interest .i liked the twist at the end 
The characters were well defined particularly the foreigners who were the focus of the story ,the black Africans were rather two dimensional in contrast which helped build the us and them feeling of aid workers under siege..There were some moments when the tone of the writing felt rather lecturing to me I don’t like feeling that I’m being preached to in literature I prefer to make my own decisions 
I read an early copy on of the book on NetGalley Uk the book is published in the Uk on 11 April 2023 by ECW Press
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"one gets used to anything"

"how complicated our helping becomes. how very particular and measured"

For me, these two quotes sum up this incredible novel so well and succinctly. This story focuses on an aid worker, Maya, who is caught between the community she has created with the local people in the fictional Lakanni and the white helper who has been accused of a disturbing act of violence. 

Hasan bridges these two worlds- the similarities and differences so beautifully. This novel is heart breaking, angering, and really puts needed strain on the idea of white saviourism. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for the e-arc.
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a powerful novel designed to make you think. The pacing is a bit slow though, especially the front half. I felt like there was too much inner musing inside Mayas head. Given the situation, its natural that she'd question everything, but I felt like the author wrote out her questions far too often and repetitively.
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It took me quite along time to pick this book to be honest. But I'm so glad I did, I breezed through it. I like the premise, how humanitarian lofe is shown and described, how even in that career politicking exists.

I have so many emotions while reading this book, pain, despair, brokenheartedness. And the main topic – rape – was handled masterfully. The book showed me how a culture I am not familiar with handles this kind of situation and I was able to understand them better.

But my greatest takeaway I think is the title itself, even though we meant well, the end result is not always the best for other people. We have to walk in their shoes to understand.
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Erum Shazia Hasan is a Canadian author living in Toronto, and this is her debut novel. She draws on her experience working in the international non-profit sector. We Meant Well is a raw and honest look, from a Western lens, at the moral quandaries that this type of work entails. US-based senior administrator Maya is called to visit the rural village of Likanni in an unnamed war-torn country. One of their white male staff has been accused of a crime against a local Black woman, and Maya has to manage the fallout. 

This well-written story is a minefield of ethical issues. Maya takes us on this journey away from our comfortable lives to an area of the world where people lack food and personal security, though are rich in community and family bonds. The novel explores issues of race and privilege. Power dynamics are exquisitely apparent, both overt and subtle. 

Each decision a charity or an individual makes has intended and unintended consequences. Aid organizations have to decide who they can help and who they cannot. Corporate interests also play a role: A mining company starts an operation, and brings local jobs but displaces thousands, and horrific suffering results. With regard to Maya's current mission in Likanni, what she choses to do truly matters.  If she seeks justice for the aggrieved woman and her family, the charitable work could be jeopardized, and the hundreds of orphan children they care for will be abandoned. 

Hasan also delves into the contradictions within people. Aid workers want to help, yet want the comforts of the first world. Maya cares about the people she helps, but can opt out anytime by heading home. There’s an inability to feel at home in either world: always a rich foreigner in Likanni, and always guilty with each excess in the West. 

Half way through, I was curious about where Hasan was going to take us. Can well off countries and people help without harming? It’s tempting to throw one’s hands up in despair. I don’t think that’s Hasan’s message. Rather, help is needed, but the current system is flawed and needs to be rethought. Any charitable work in developing nations will need to involve those being helped for it to be meaningful. 

The ending seemed abrupt: There was no pat answer, no nicely penned concluding paragraph. Things continued to be a mess, which mirrors real life. A complex ending to a complex situation. It was an excellent novel to get me thinking about an issue I knew little about, and I think this would be an interesting book club selection. 

Thanks to Netgalley and ECW Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
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I couldn’t put this down. From the characters to the setting to the discussions around aid work and cultural perceptions, it was well written, insightful and very easy to read. The ending was a real twist and left me wanting to know more.
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What a treat this book was! I had no idea what to expect, and I was blown away by the experience of reading it. I really enjoy books that shine a light on a portion of the world that’s otherwise a mystery to me. I’ve often times wondered how aid workers feel about the developing countries they serve in, how altruistic are their motivations and how are scandals handled in such large organizations where the abuse of power can so easily get brushed under the rug (because what’s one more atrocity in a sea of far worse atrocities). This book spoke to all these things in a refreshingly candid way.  

The author also handled the sensitive topic of sexual assault with a kind of grace I was certain people had forgotten. It did not feel the need to divulge unnecessary details on it to invoke a sense of horror. It neither minimized the tragedy nor did it resort to cheap rhetoric to draw empathy. 

Other things I loved about the book: the non-romanticized description of humanitarian work, the reality of a wife who is too weary to plan a loud confrontation of a cheating husband, the bureaucratic red tape in all large organizations.  

I’m still sitting on the ending, and I don’t yet know how I feel about it, but I do know I feel like I experienced something different with this book.
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“We Meant Well” is a touching, intense reading. Pain, anger, indignation, hope. This is not just a novel, but also a journey in the intimacy of those who work in the humanitarian field, an account of the burdensome responsibility of charity, and of the huge suffering of victims, which it’s so hard to remedy, neither with the best intentions. Erin Shazia Hazan narrates about Maya, a young American woman with Bangladeshi heritage, working as a humanitarian operator, to whom was entrusted of the difficult task to investigate and to understand whether her former colleague has assaulted the young Lele, the local collaborator of the NGO that operates in the functional Likanni to help orphans. How to condemn someone with whom one has worked for a long time? How not to believe in that very smart, young woman, victims of a terrible crime? It’s a heartwrenching story, which put the readers an issue that seems to have no solutions, that forces them to look inside themselves, to fight against their own biases, that sometimes a cliché is the truth. 
Hazan is a brave author, who deeply knows the topic of charity and international cooperation, how much is at stake when operating in apace where you don’t belong to, how to mediate with the local population and embrace those traditions which appear so distant to foreigners. 
I held the breath while reading, and although I expected that ending, it was still able to surprise me. Even though I don’t really like this kind of writing style, and I find the narration a little hurried, I enjoyed diving into the world of Likanni and imagining myself working next to Maya and Chantal, learning from their experience. “We Meant Well” has thrilled me and made me cry. I loved this book, and as someone who dreams to work in international cooperation field, it taught me a lot, and showed me as difficult is to work in these complex and delicate realities. 
An amazing debut from Hazan! I’m looking forward reading the future works by this talented author.
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Emaciated mothers surrounded by starving children, all with empty eyes staring into a lens. Terrifying videos showing the results of ethnic cleansing. Crowded refugee camps “guarded” by untrained teen-aged boys carrying automatic weapons with hair triggers. Isn’t there something I can do? Isn’t there something I should do?

Erum Shazia Hasa clearly knows this terrain. Her rich debut, “We Meant Well”, tells the story of an NGO (Non-governmental organization) that focuses on orphans. The agency is renowned internationally for giving children who are the residue of senseless violence at least a slight chance to live a better life. It is well-financed by prominent institutional and individual donors. 

The fictional community of Likanni is depicted by Hasa in all its beauty and poverty. Maya has dedicated a good portion of her life to this work, for many years based in a remote field office. She stepped back a few years ago to focus on her own life - marrying, having a child, living a comfortable existence in LA. But suddenly she is called to return. There are existential challenges that only she can manage. Maya is welcomed back with open arms - Bigabosse is back. 

Hasa does a wonderful job of introducing characters to enrichen the layers of complexity in this world. She describes some who have come with a White Savior, hero complex, others to enrich themselves by extracting resources. She focuses on the plight of women forced to exist in a patriarchy in both the 1st world and 3rd. She depicts the impossibility of moving between realities, eventually discovering that the only reality that you can have is your own. 

“We Meant Well” is a sad story, but still cunningly leaves the reader with hope.  

Thanks to ECW Press and NetGalley for the eARC.
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We Meant Well by Erum Shazia Hasan was a jaw dropping novel with a touch of psychological thriller. This was one of the most unique stories I have ever heard and while it isn't necessarily totally a thriller, this certainly kept me on the edge of my seat. This deals with pretty sensitive topics so please check the trigger warnings!
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dnf @ 40%

i really couldn't get into the writing style and it was putting me in a reading slump.

maybe i'll pick it up again, but i doubt it.
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