Friday, October 28, 2016

Written in the Stars, by Aisha Saeed

Naila is looking forward to finishing high school, going away to college, and to finally being able to spend time with her boyfriend Saif.  She loves her family and knows they mean well, but her parents don't approve of Saif.  In fact, they have plans to arrange a marriage for her instead.  But Naila knows that she just needs to outwait them.  Soon, she'll be away at school and she and Saif can see each other as often as they wish.

But when her parents discover that she is sneaking out to be with her boyfriend, they freak out. Under the pretense of a little summer vacation to see family, they take her to Pakistan.  And before Naila can figure it out and stop them, she's been married off to a Pakistani man she doesn't even know.

A harrowing story of a young woman with patience and strength that are hard to imagine.  Her primary characteristic seems to be her ability to wait -- for days, weeks, and even months -- for opportunities to escape her circumstances.

Rich in cultural detail, the story delights in its setting.  Still, it is an excruciating story full of cruelty.  One thing that readers will have trouble with is accepting how Naila's parents could do this to her.  And while no full explanation is made, Saeed does a valiant job of making it seem all too plausible.  Unfortunately, some readers may simply reinforce their derogatory attitude towards Muslim cultures, but as Saeed points out, forced marriage is hardly unique to only a few cultures.  It's a stunning book.

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