AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD “5 UNDER 35” NOMINEE • NEW YORK’S “ONE BOOK, ONE NEW YORK”...
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD “5 UNDER 35” NOMINEE • NEW YORK’S “ONE BOOK, ONE NEW YORK” PICK
Named One of the Best Books of the Year: Washington Post • NPR • People • Refinery29 • Parade • BuzzFeed
“Mirza writes with a mercy that encompasses all things.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post
Hailed as “a book for our times” (Christiane Amanpour), A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity, and belonging.
As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children—each in their own way—tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.
A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.
From the cover
As Amar watched the hall fill with guests arriving for his sister’s wedding, he promised himself he would stay. It was his duty tonight to greet them. A simple task, one he told himself he could do well, and he took pride in stepping forward to shake the hands of the men or hold his hand over his heart to pay the women respect. He hadn’t expected his smile to mirror those who seemed happy to see him. Nor had he anticipated the startling comfort in the familiarity of their faces. It had really been three years. Had it not been for his sister’s call, he might have allowed years more to pass before mustering the courage it took to return.
He touched his tie to make sure it was centered. He smoothed down his hair, as if a stray strand would be enough to call attention, give him away. An old family friend called out his name and hugged him. What would he tell them if they asked where he had been, and how he was doing? The sounds of the shenai started up to signal the commencement of Hadia’s wedding. Suddenly the hall was brought to life and there, beneath the golden glow of the chandeliers and surrounded by the bright colors of the women’s dresses, Amar thought maybe he had been right to come. He could convince them all—the familiar faces, his mother who he sensed checking on him as she moved about, his father who maintained his distance—he could even convince himself, that he belonged here, that he could wear the suit and play the part, be who he had been before, assume his role tonight as brother of the bride.
It had been Hadia’s decision to invite him. She watched her sister Huda get ready and hoped it had not been a mistake. That morning Hadia had woken with her brother on her mind and all day she willed herself to think as other brides must—that she would be using the word husband when speaking of Tariq now, that after years of wondering if they would make it to this moment, they had arrived. What she had not even dared to believe possible for her was coming true: marrying a man she had chosen for herself.
Amar had come as she had hoped. But when she was shocked at the sight of him she realized she never actually believed he would. Three years had passed with no news from him. On the day she told her parents she would invite him she had not allowed herself to pray, Please God, have him come, but only, Please God, let my father not deny me this. She had practiced her words until her delivery was so steady and confident any onlooker would think she was a woman who effortlessly declared her wishes.
Huda finished applying her lipstick and was fastening the pin of her silver hijab. She looked beautiful, dressed in a navy sari stitched with silver beadwork, the same sari that a handful of Hadia’s closest friends would be wearing. There was an excitement about her sister that Hadia could not muster for herself.
“Will you keep an eye on him tonight?” Hadia asked.
Huda held her arm up to slip rows of silver bangles over her wrist, each one falling with a click. She turned from the mirror to face Hadia.
“Why did you call him if you didn’t want him to come?”
Hadia studied her hands, covered in dark henna. She pressed her fingernails into her arm. “It’s my wedding day.”
An obvious statement, but it was true. It did not matter if she had not heard from her brother in years, she could not imagine this day without him. But relief at the sight of Amar brought with it that old shadow of worry for...
About the Author-
- FATIMA FARHEEN MIRZA was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.
April 30, 2018
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.
- Narrators Deepti Gupta and Sunil Malhotra team up to bring listeners this family saga about immigration, tradition, and change. Together they present the dual perspectives of Rafiq and Layla, the mother and father of three very different children. Gupta establishes the complex emotional landscape of a family transplanted from India to the U.S. in the subtle, tender tones of Layla. Malhotra then picks up in Part 4 to give us Rafiq's point of view. The world depicted will feel familiar to anyone who has a complicated family history. Listeners will appreciate the realistic sense of a family in turmoil created by these two narrators. M.R. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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