As a long time fan of Sarah Jessica Parker’s book recommendations (her Instagram has put me onto fantastic reads including The Nix by Nathan Hill and No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts) I have been incredibly excited for this release. A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is a debut novel, and the first release of SJP for Hogarth.
This story follows the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, and the story opens on the eve of the wedding of the eldest daughter, Hadia. After weaving in and out of the childhood of Hadia and her younger siblings Huda and Amar, and their parents Layla and Rafiq, we come full circle and return to the day of the wedding later in the novel. I loved this plot structure and thought it was extremely effective in bringing the reader up to speed with the context and nuances that may have been missed in that initial scene. I found the changing timelines and switches between point of view character a little confusing to begin with, but soon settled into the flow and found it gave a well-rounded perspective of the family dynamics. With the exception of Huda, I felt that we really got to feel a sense of each character’s perspective. Given the direction the plot takes, I think this was critical to evoking as much of an emotional response as it did.
In terms of a multi-generational glimpse into a family, I have not seen this so deftly handled in fiction since Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko. What immediately captured me with this book was the portrayal of the everyday interactions between the characters, but before long it became obvious that it was the broader themes of belonging and place that I felt the reader drawn to connect with. So many of the relationships in this book, both familial and romantic, connect with these themes and tug at the heart strings, below is one example that I found to be such a perfect example of this:
Loving [name omitted to avoid spoilers] was not just loving a young woman. It was loving a whole world – a world changed by her presence, enlarged by her perception. She was of the same world he had been born into but had only ever felt himself outside of, waiting to be invited in. Sitting by her was the closest he came to feeling harmony with his own home.
I found this a really powerful book and cannot wait to see the discussions it evokes in readers – I think this would make for a perfect book-club book for that reason.
Thanks to NetGalley and SJP for Hogarth for providing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.