A Place for Us by Fatima Mirza
Beloved by everyone I've talked to about it, I was very excited to read A Place for Us. It follows the life of an Indian family as they marry then raise their children in the San Francisco Bay Area, striving to hold onto their traditional ways, yet also assimilate into the American culture. They have three children- two girls then a boy, and the story follows the children as they grow to adulthood and decide how traditional vs. American they want their lifestyles to be, coming to different conclusions. In particular, the son struggles to feel good enough for his father or their mosque, and he turns to a life of partying and drugs, which pains his family greatly. Eventually he is estranged from them and only returns for his sister's wedding years later.
Part of me can see what everyone has enjoyed about this book. It deals with some nearly universal issues. All of us have watched someone we love make bad decisions, and our hearts can relate to this family as they watch each other struggle from time to time in turn. Many readers can relate to the pull between family, faith, tradition, expectations, and wanting to forge your own path. I love stories of people from other cultures, always interested in what their experience of America is like, and hoped for more from this book in that aspect.
Probably the hardest part for me about this book, though, is that it is slow- very very slow, and it jumps around between time periods and perspectives in a disjointed fashion. I nearly gave up on it multiple times, but persevered because it was so highly recommended. When it finally grabbed my attention, I looked up to find that I was on page 193- that is quite a bit farther than I would usually give a book before giving up. I was engaged for about 75 pages, and then it really slowed down again, and I will admit that I skimmed the last 20 pages just to finish. I didn't feel that the family was particularly interesting, nor was the story particularly engaging. This one goes down for me as a book that didn't live up to the hype, although I think most would disagree with me, so if you are looking forward to this one, I encourage you to give it a try, and maybe you'll love it. My husband asked me what it was about and I told him about an immigrant family with two daughters and a son. "Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but not funny or charming?" he asked. That's kind of correct, actually.
The mother's outfits, called shalwar kamiz, are frequently discussed in the book. I had the opportunity to purchase one when I was in Pakistan years ago, but I also purchased this little one for my triplet sister who was a toddler at the time. It's so pretty, I just had to use it for a picture with this book. Hope you have a wonderful day!