A Place for Us

A Place for Us

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Overview:A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

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.

A deeply affecting and resonant story, A Place for Us is truly a book for our times: a moving portrait of what it means to be an American family today, a novel of love, identity and belonging that eloquently examines what it means to be both American and Muslim — and announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.

Deanna Boe (09/23/18):This is an exceptional novel, and I would probably rank it as one of the best I have read in the past year. It is a story about a family and written in such a way that everyone should be able to identify with it in some way. So saying, I must point out it is written by a first time author who just so happens to be Muslim. It wouldn’t make any difference if the writer was Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or Hindu – it would be the same. All families have problems; no family is perfect, unless you are one of the lucky ones. All I can say is the writing simply flows, drawing you into the storyline in such a way you don’t want to put it down and are sorry when it ends.

The book begins at the wedding of the oldest daughter, Hadia. Their youngest son, Amar, has returned for the wedding after being gone for three years. It just gives you a small sample of the wedding before the book then goes to the early years of the lives of this family. The father moved to the United States from India after he was orphaned as a teen-ager. When he had earned enough money he returned to India to select a bride. The novel is divided into four parts. The first part introduces us to each member of the family, but mainly the oldest sister, Hadia.

Hadia did not want to follow in her mother’s footsteps where the man makes all the decisions. Even her father had told her you are “our” responsibility until you marry and then you are your “husband’s.” This meant her husband would have total control of her life, even something as simple as cutting her hair. Because she was extremely intelligent and had always pleased her father, she knew she wanted things different as an adult. Ironically the profession she chose to please her father was also what gave her the independence she needed in her life, being a doctor.

Throughout this first part we read about the youngest member of the family, Amar. From the time he was born he was different then his two older sisters who had always done as the family wanted. Amar wasn’t a good student and this caused problems for everyone. He wanted a certain pair of shoes and the only way he could get them his father told him was to pass a certain test perfectly. When it was found out he had cheated on one word, he did not get the shoes which causes him to give up and causes more problems down the line. Especially when he found out later it was his sister who had told on his cheating, the sister he felt he could trust. Another major problem came about again when he is studying hard to prove himself, only this time it was his mother who lets him down. He did not find this out until years later. Again he had felt close to his mother; how could she do this? She helped to destroy all that Amar had felt important in his life. This outcome has tremendous impact not only on Amar, but the whole family and the girl he loved.

The fourth part is told mainly in the voice of the father. If you have not already shed a tear or two in this book, you will during this part of the book. Now we know how the father has felt throughout all these years and your heart breaks for him and for his son. I have tried to tell as little as possible because I don’t want to spoil it for you as you read it. I can’t imagine anyone reading this and not thinking of similar incidents in their own family and their own life.
Rating: *****

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