My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Content warnings: kidnapping, drugs, marital rape, forced marriage, abduction, imprisonment, servitude, heterosexual relationships, forcibly making someone eat, abuse*
Firstly, Aisha Saeed has done a wonderful job with this book. I LOVE her note at the end about how even in religions and cultures where arranged marriages are a thing, that forced marriages are frowned on. And I especially loved that she put a list of resources in the back of the book. That was wonderful.
Second, this book ripped my heart out. I recommend it. And for those of you who are not Pakistani and/or do not come from similar cultural/religious types backgrounds to *NOT* paint all with the brush of the types depicted in this book (for those of us Americans who aren’t of cultural/religious backgrounds that participate in arranged marriages, which, from everything I’ve read, usually wind up being consented by the parties being married and wind up being happy marriages fwiw, imagine us all being depicted as the ignorant assholes who do ridiculous things like we deface historical buildings, taking indecent photos inside of holy sites, known for defacing our own national parks, that even our celebrities deface our national parks, and that hey, most of us are ok with celebs destroying sacred sites (while simultaneously having this faux outrage about a piece of fabric and “patriotism”) or even being the stereotypical white redneck being interviewed on Fox News about the natural disaster that has just ripped through the city/county/state and is dirty, unkempt, barely literate, more concerned about guns and religion than anything else, backwoods, (insert whatever other stereotype you want here).)
This was both engaging and heartbreaking. Because not only is it fictional but it’s also completely a thing that happens outside of fiction. And it’s a terrifying thing to think about and no doubt go through.
Now, in my content warnings, there’s an asterisk next to abuse. There’s a reason for that. What I, as an American, particularly a white American, who doesn’t come from a religion or culture where I wouldn’t be sold at a bride price or an arranged marriage (or in case of this book a forced one) or really anything of the sort see as abuse can be seen from a cultural and/or religious perspective as normal (see: swatting your kid once or twice on the butt for doing a thing you told them not to in the 80s vs now. Then it was just discipline/re-enforcement of the “no” and now it can be considered child abuse even if first time if someone else sees you do it). So, my perspective, some of the things in this book are very highly abusive in my experiences. However, in someone who is raised heavily in a religion or culture where things as described in book as punishments for disobedience are seen as “the norm” it might not be seen the same way. But I would very much consider forcing someone to eat who doesn’t want to eat as a form of abuse given the circumstances of the why and all that.
ALL of that said, I hope to see more books from this author. Hopefully not as heavy as this one but definitely more books with non white main characters following what they believe is right to do what they believe is right. I bought the book before I had even finished half of it because I wound up that engrossed in it. It’s not a purchase I regret.
Buy it here: