Ok, so y’all, don’t be like me, don’t judge this book by it’s cover, its inside font and spacing, or even the blurb on the back. Judge it based on this sentence: A modern ISLAMIC Libyan cultural retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, that is done so, so well. It is seriously so well written and so effortlessly adapted that for those that know the original by heart you will giggle and be giddy with anticipation of how the characters and plot points are turned Islamic. And those that have never read or watched the original or any of the many adaptations, will be sucked in and swept away by the story at hand. Oh sure it needs a few tweaks here and there, but truly this hidden gem sat untouched on my shelf with it’s unattractive cover for way too long. Alhumdulillah for @bintyounus giving the book a start and squealing with glee until the entire @muslimbookreviewer crew dropped everything and read the book. Not that it was hard, once started, this book stayed glued to me as I tried to sneak minutes at dismissal, at work, while cooking, and talking on the phone to stay in the world so masterfully created. The book is halal, but the characters for the most part are in their twenties and I think I wouldn’t object to older teens reading it, but it is an Adult or New Adult book, in both characters’ ages and readers’ interest and appeal.
The five sisters in the BenTaleb family are all unmarried, balancing life, school, jobs, and daily stresses as varied Muslim Libyan young women in America. With so many girls, the parents of Jana, Elizza, Maryam, Leedya, and Kawthar are known in the small Midwest community as Abu l’Banaat and Umm l’Banaat. When two young businessmen from Libya come in to town to teach at the local university, the eligible bachelor’s are sough after and all the drama, angst, longing, and courtship comes to fruition. Throw in a distant cousin who is an imam, a scandal with a younger sister, social media updates, and cultural expectations, and you have yourself a book full of laughs, tears, cheering, and joy.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love how seamless the retelling is, the pop culture references, and how relatable and rich the writing is. I was blown away by the beautiful strong Islam present that somehow never comes across as preachy, but is so thoughtfully present in presenting ideology, cultural pushback, western conflict, that Muslims and non Muslims will enjoy the story. I’m fairly certain every Muslim Jane Austen fan has thought how similar books written so long ago mirror the courting etiquette of Muslims, and this book delivers all of those hopes and imaginings: the names of the characters, the opposing perspectives of the sisters- I really can’t stop gushing, and haven’t since I finished the 200 page book. There is so much Islam, swoon, and it is presented so well.
As an Adult book it is clean, even as a New Adult book it is clean. I hesitate to call it Young Adult because it is about marriage, and there is a scandal with a sister, and mention of wedding nights, and STDS and lingerie, nothing is explicit, but for as halal as it all is and how practicing the character’s all are, these few mentions elevate the story from suitable for a 13 year old, to being ok for older teens.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I think everyone should read it and come gush with me. You can purchase the book here.