A PLACE FOR US by Fatima Farheen Mirza

From the Back Cover

Fatima Farheen Mirza’s masterful debut catches an Indian Muslim family as they prepare for their eldest daughter’s wedding.  But as Hadia’s marriage- one chosen of love, not tradition- gathers the family together, there is only one thing on their minds: Amar, the estranged younger brother of the bride, who returns home for the first time in three years.

A PLACE FOR US takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life- from the bonds that hold them together to the differences that pull them apart.  What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture?  And can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?  An astonishingly tenderhearted novel of love. identity, and belonging, A PLACE FOR US is a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today.

My Thoughts

A PLACE FOR US is one of the most impressive debut novels I’ve read to date.  I love a good multi-generational family saga, so I knew I would appreciate Mirza’s debut, but I was taken aback by how much I fell in love with the novel.

“Her reflection.  Her tired face.  She touches her dry bottom lip and thinks of how odd it is to experience a secret loss.  A loss without a name.  The loss of a potential version of her life.  Of what she never had, and now never will.”

I knew some bits of A PLACE FOR US would be tough to read, especially as Mirza jumped into exploring the treatment of Muslims in America, but I didn’t expect to feel such profound emotion.  When I read, I normally don’t feel an enormous attachment to the characters (some sort of connection, sure, but rarely an emotional attachment) but Mirza really sought to create a bond between her audience and her characters.  I think it’s for that reason that I started to fall in love with A PLACE FOR US.  Reading about Amar’s hardships and the severe racism his family faced post-9/11 was so difficult and just about broke my heart to be completely honest.

With motherhood books everywhere at the moment, from Sheila Heti to Brit Bennett and beyond, it was nice to see fatherhood at the forefront here with the troublesome relationship between father and son, Rafiq and Amar respectively.  Without getting into spoilers, the last part of the book, about eighty pages or so, is the only part written in the first person, as a letter from Rafiq to Amar, jumping fluidly between past and present.  It was enough to make me tear up, and, as I rarely cry while reading, for me that’s the sign of a good novel!

“What was it about an apology that was so difficult?  It always felt like it cost something personal and precious.  Only now that she was a mother was she so aware of this: the stubbornness and pride that came with being human, the desire to be loyal and generous that came too, each impulse at odds with the other.”

Incredibly emotional and tender-hearted, A PLACE FOR US is a remarkable debut novel, well-written with true-to-life characters.  Mirza is certainly one to look out for (and SJP sure knows how to pick ’em!).


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