The Short Review: Five stars. It's beautiful, thoughtful, and life-changing.
The Long Review: I love reading family dramas. It's, like, my thing. I also like reading books about faith, when they're well written. This is a well-written book that takes a look at family and faith in a way I haven't read before. A few years back, my friend Annie (who owns the local bookstore) recommended Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. When I finally got around to reading it, it changed my life. A Place For Us does for this Muslim family what Gilead did for the Christian family. It changes how you perceive what you might've thought you've always known. My favorite part of reading A Place For Us was realizing just how much this family and their faith was like mine. America spent a long time creating an us vs. them narrative, and this book shatters that.
The writing is beautiful, but never overdone. Sometimes, as much as I love a beautiful sentence, it can feel like getting caught in a spider web while running a marathon; it ruins the pace. Mirza avoids that and also avoids cliches she could've been privy to, the way many new writers are. She moves backward and forwards through time in such a beautiful way, reminiscent of Alice Munro. There's not a moment where you ever feel lost or out of place and it's because of how carefully she guides you through it. It also shifts perspective a lot, and the shift is so organic and never jarring. She's a master. It felt like reading a book co-written by Alice Munro and Marilynne Robinson, except with a little more music to the words.
I know this whole review just feels like me saying, "You're beautiful, you're gorgeous, you're Linda Evangelista." but the truth is, I haven't been able to rave about a book this year in the way I want to rave about this one. Nothing I say could explain the beauty and power this book has. It also reminded me that I'm still ignorant to a lot of things, and I need to continue to read about people who's journey is so different from mine.
This book is a book for everyone. I have a lot of thoughts about who I'd recommend it to, but I think for the most part, anyone can find something to love about this book. I'd especially recommend it to my Christian friends and for people who still hold judgements about Muslim Americans.
There's a lot I want to say, but I don't want to give anything away. So, below, I'm including some thoughts I had while reading this book, some thoughts which have spoilers. If you've read the book, cool. If you haven't and don't want to be spoiled, this is the stopping point.
The most heartbreaking part of this book for me was any moment in part four, where Rafiq reflects on how he handled the situation with Amar. My Granny has always been a very religious woman--she was raised Pentecostal--and she and my mother (who's an addict) always struggled to have a relationship. Seeing Rafiq struggle with how his son's struggles fit into his own relationship with his faith gave me a new understanding for what my Granny must have gone through. That last page, where Rafiq wants to tell Amar about God's mercy...it reminded me of the last time my mom got clean, and Granny held my mom and told her that God was a being with boundless love and that he would always welcome her into his home , and so, Momma was always welcome into Granny's home. That last page also reminded me of why having faith in a higher power can be so healing to people.
Y'all! That spelling test. I can't even. That's all you gotta know. I CANNOT even!
There's a moment around page 160, where Hadia is discussing why she loves Tariq and she basically says it's because everything is an adventure, even going to the grocery store. If you've read it, you'll probably remember what I'm talking about. But reading that reminded me of the reason I love my husband so much, and it was just really sweet.
Also, can people please stop killing off characters after I get attached to them?! Just wondering.
What did you think of A Place For Us? If you have any thoughts, let me know! I'd love to discuss :) Thanks for taking the time to read, and sorry this was such a scattered review. I can tell I loved it because I can never fully articulate my thoughts on things I love so much.