cover image These Impossible Things

These Impossible Things

Salma El-Wardany. Grand Central, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5387-0930-6

El-Wardany’s entertaining debut follows the romantic relationships of three Muslim women living in London in the early 2010s. Ever since Kees, Malak, and Jenna met in weekend Islamic school, they’ve shared a tight friendship grounded in religion. Now in their 20s, the trio remain close and primarily date non-Muslim men, despite their families’ expectations that they should marry within the faith. After Malak’s white, agnostic boyfriend realizes Malak will never be able to tell her parents about their relationship, they break up. A heartbroken Malak then vindictively tells Kees that Kees’s relationship with Harry, a white man, also won’t last. Tempers flare and the fight creates a lasting rift. The three go their separate ways: Malak moves to Cairo, where she dates a seemingly perfect Muslim man; Kees gets a job as an attorney, but her relationship with Harry becomes increasingly strained; and Jenna represses her loneliness with reckless casual hookups. As the months pass and the trio’s romantic lives become increasingly tumultuous, they come to recognize the value of the friendship they once shared. The complex characters are well observed and the prose is often moving: “Although the breakup was mutual, it was an unexpected specter, slipping quietly unnoticed through the door.” Fresh, witty, and insightful, this is an auspicious start. Florence Rees, AM Heath Literary. (June)