Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.
Tags: Islamic beliefs, Conservatism, Love, Romance, Family, Friends, Workplace discrimination, Identity, Forgiveness, Xenophobia
(I voluntarily requested this book and, thanks to Berkley and Edelweiss, received a free e-copy in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinions on the book.)
I’m so used to reading non-Islamic romance that reading one feels a bit…unaccustomed, for lack of a better word. And I’m Muslim. The irony! Just goes to show how much we need more of this kind of representation.
This is the 2nd book this week that’s got me reading up way past my bedtime! The 1st one was Contagion, which was in a whole other genre, and it was a thrilling ride. I wanted to take a breather from all that excitement to read something calmer and less dangerous, so I went with Ayesha At Last. Heads up, it was NOT so calm as I thought xD So much drama! I loved it! I also read it in one sitting, hehe.
Just like Contagion, it touched on a myriad of topics, with characters of varying shades of beliefs. There was Ayesha and Khalid, our star characters, who both valued their family immensely but while the former was more liberal the other was erring on the extremely-conservative side(which was annoying to read about, personally). There was a white best friend, controlling matriarch, wise and playful grandpa, born-Muslim who didn’t identify as Muslim, a xenophobic and fat-shaming woman, and so much more!
She was an active troublemaker, so consumed with the need to control those around her that she would even lie to her own son.
Every character introduced had a lot of differences and I love that the author has portrayed these many facets. It’s not just the ethnicity, even WITHIN the Muslim community, no two person are the same. This is something I wish more people would understand, that just because Muslim A does such and such action does not mean Muslim B is the same or that it’s a direct reflection of Islam’s teachings.
This whole set-up felt wrong. He thought about his careful explanation to Hafsa about marriage, his confidence in his mother’s method and in her selection of his wife. Was the process supposed to be this awkward? He had pictured his arranged marriage very differently, more sophisticated and mature, like a thoughtful business merger. This felt more like a backroom deal.
There were a few characters I took extra liking to, one was Nana(pretty sure most of you would agree. This grandpa is just adorable!) and the other two were the Imam(his patience and humor!) and Ayesha’s BFF, Clara(what a supportive and understanding friend!).
Uzma has kept the bare bones of Pride & Prejudice intact and twiddled with the other parts, adapting the story to make it her own. The plot flowed smoothly with everything clicking in place. She’s touched on so many topics and sub-topics, it’d become a thesis if I told you guys all about it! But mainly, it’s about family, friends, religion, identity and most of all, love.
“Macbeth did not start off evil. It was the choices he made that sent him down a dark path.”
Throughout the story the characters grew and transformed slowly, revelations were discovered, fights were had and hijinks abounded. Ayesha At Last would be a great starting point for discussion, between Asians and between Muslims and non-Muslims. A drama-filled, melting pot of culture and life! Also, I can’t leave this review without mentioning how relateable many parts were, the embarrassment, annoyances and humor!
Ayesha tugged self-consciously at her carefully chosen teacher clothes: blue button-down shirt and serviceable black pants. Her hands nervously smoothed the top of her purple hijab.
Part of both worlds, yet part of neither.
And two, the only rotten apple in this orchard was sitting in the director’s office, googling “Islamist water bottles.”
I think Asians, Muslims, conservative people and those who like Austen-style romances will enjoy this book. However, non-Muslims and liberals might find this read somewhat frustrating at times due to the certain characters’ comparatively conservative views. Even I was frustrated at Khalid’s obstinately conservative beliefs, yet I understood where he was coming from. I still recommend trying Ayesha At Last out just to see things in our point of view, that way there can be more understanding and you might realize that we’re really not that different from the next person.
P. S. Khalid needs to get new friends, or at least some more, as his current group doesn’t fit with his beliefs and way of life. Also, I didn’t like how a lot of the young male characters were portrayed unsavourably. Like, is Khalid the only good guy in a 10 mile radius? I don’t know if this is actually based on facts and the author is merely being realistic. If so, I stand corrected.
P. P. S. That paratha lesson was genius! I don’t know how Uzma could come up with such a smooth delivery of a lesson, I loved reading between the lines. Everything fit perfectly!
Parental Guidance: 12+
Violence – One slap and a punch
Sex – Ogling and mention of pornography
Religion – Muslim beliefs and reflecting within the religion. Other people’s beliefs are respected though.
Profanity – Minor
Recommended for: Muslims, Asians, conservative individuals and readers who like chaste romances or are looking for a heartwarming read about family. Also for those of you who are curious about the Muslim community and point of view.