A Place for Us

Fatima Farheen Mirza. SJP for Hogarth, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6355-8
Bonds of faith and family strengthen and strangle in this promising but flawed debut, set in a close-knit Indian Muslim community in California. The story opens with the wedding of Hadia, golden child of Layla and Rafiq and older sister to Huda and Amar, skillfully setting up the central tension: why has Amar, the troubled youngest, been absent from the family, and can he be drawn back? The plot then shuffles backward and forward, revisiting plot points with few signposts to let the reader know when exactly key events—an untimely death, the snuffing out of a forbidden relationship, a family-rupturing fight—take place. Perspective alights on various characters, revealing more about some than others; middle child Huda remains nearly opaque, and early references to Rafiq’s violent temper are all but dropped. For the final 80 pages, Rafiq narrates, and the story at last coheres. He delivers a heartrending reflection on his role in his son’s partly self-imposed banishment: “It is in these moments that the fabric of my life reveals itself to be an illusion: thinking that I am fine, we all are, that we could grow around your loss like a tree that bends around a barrier or wound.” Mirza displays a particular talent for rendering her characters’ innermost emotional lives, signaling a writer to watch. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 06/12/2018
Genre: Fiction
Library Binding - 978-1-4328-5259-7
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-5247-6356-5
Paperback - 978-1-4328-5260-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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