I get teased a lot by my Lit Sisters for enjoying Hana Khan Carries On so much, so I’m writing this review to convince them why I think this is Uzma Jalaluddin’s best book yet, and why they should preorder here and dive in ASAP! First note that is an adult read, it is not targeted to teens, the protagonist for the majority of the book is nearly 30 years old. It is a romance, it is not a hundred percent halal, but it is definitely halal-ish, and if you feel like you reach a point where it absolutely isn’t, please keep reading (you might be surprised). The book for being what I thought would be an empty calorie rom-com guilty pleasure snack, tells the story of Nada in spiraling layers that keep the reader hooked. Just when you think it is predictable and tropey, the next layer peels back a twist and depth that kept me ignoring my kids and glued to the pages for two days straight. I furiously scribbled notes writing down “haram” deal breakers and most by the end where crossed off, so no this is not Islamic fiction, but there is no internalized Islamophobia, there is no liberal agenda, the author knows the lines and is abiding by them and occasionally breaking them in a fictional entertainment world for Muslim and non Muslim readers alike. I hate to compare, but in many ways it reads like an adult S.K. Ali book. There is social commentary on Islamic communities from a place of love and practice from the inside, there are relatable characters, there is humor, there is love, laughter, and warmth. On occasion there is skirting of the halal/haram line a bit here and there, and sure males and females are a little too friendly at times, but it isn’t the oppressive parents and identity crisis, it is joy. Muslim reality and stress, with true mirroring joy as well.
So why am I reviewing this book here? Simple so you can enjoy it. So often I feel like reviewers particularly, but casual readers as well, become nervous while reading, that the book is going to take a turn and become haram or preachy that we can’t just get lost in the story. So my gift to you, is that if you enjoy rom-coms and don’t usually go for “Muslamic” ones because of apprehension, you can dive in and enjoy this. You can laugh when they ask for a doctor at an Islamic convention, you can roll your eyes when hijabi’s bring extra scarves to throw on the stage of the band (there is a guitar player, but mostly daf and vocals), you can be upset at the slight physical touching (keep reading), and you can nod along with the commentary on divorce, misogyny, wheelchair access, and mental health, but you can also just cheer for the protagonist to find her way to happiness and love too.
SYNOPSIS: (Will be brief because other wise there will be too many spoilers, and because of how the book is told, you don’t want spoilers, trust me, you want to enjoy)
The book opens with Nada trying to hide from both her mom who wants discuss her future and her best friend Haleema who is determined to have a girls weekend with her bestie at the Deen & Duniya Islamic conference in Toronto. Cornered she finds herself at the conference organized by Haleema’s soon to be inlaws and face to face with a variety of characters from her past including past victims of her bullying, past love interest, past business partners, past camp roommates, college friends, startup mentors, and others- it is a very popular and large conference
Yep, that is all you are getting.
WHY I LIKE IT:
Again, to avoid spoilers I’m going to simply point out a few plot concerns I had with the book, because it is who I am, and I need to get them off my chest.
In some of the flashback scenes Nada’s voice reads the same as it does in the present. Her articulation of Baz’s potential as a daf player at 11 years old is very mature and insightful and not realistic at all that she can opine on his skill and the role his hand size have on his mastery at that moment of the instrument. She would probably just think, yeah he is good, or wow, he isn’t bad.
I found it odd that Marya’s husband had opinions on Nada’s makeup, it seemed a bit forward. Also they were in line, then they left, the pacing of the scene was a little off, I read an arc, but I’m hoping it is cleaned up a bit, because it is an important scene.
Haleema is Nada’s college friend, but toward the end in college flashbacks she really disappears, and it was noticeable, because the reader is constantly told Haleema and Nada were good college friends, but never shown. So in those scenes to not have her there, without note, is suspect. Nada really isn’t a good friend to here either, at any stage of life save the conclusion, I’m not sure why Haleema does so much for her honestly.
There is a wedding scene without a wali, and there should be a comment as to why the wedding is performed without the religiously mandated staple or how they are getting around it. It reads off for a book that gets so many details correct. I am hoping that the final has it corrected! PLEASE!!!!!!
Also for a different wedding Sufyan is noted to have got an invite to help serve chai, but he is the groom’s cousin’s son, introduced earlier as a nephew, before the cultural chain of relation is given, so why wouldn’t he be at the wedding?
Music, female and male close friendships, sneaking around, bullying, talk of sex, sex, kissing, talk of pregnancy, lying, stealing, theft, there might be a curse word or two, sorry, not sure. For an adult book it is clean, these days for a YA book it would be considered remarkably clean.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I wouldn’t suggest it for a school library or high school book club, but I wouldn’t put up much of a fight if it was on the shelf or schedule.