Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
ISBN: 9781984802798 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781984802804 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984890405 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07L2HG6F2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.
Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.
Ayesha Shamsi, along with her mother, maternal grandparents, and younger brother, immigrated to Canada when she was a child after her father’s death during a riot. Fortunately, for Ayesha and her family, her mother’s older brother resided in Canada and was able to provide them not only with housing but with financial support. Ayesha’s mother, although grieving the loss of her beloved husband, studied nursing and embarked upon a medical career. Although Ayesha loved poetry, partially due to her grandfather and his love of Shakespeare, she knew that it would be impossible to make a career as a poet so she studied education. Now in her mid-twenties, she knows that her duty as an obedient daughter/grand-daughter/niece is to work hard to repay her uncle for his financial support, help her mother to support their family, and do whatever she can to be a role model for her young cousins. It doesn’t help that her younger cousin Hafsa, is a bit of a flirt and somewhat flighty. At the moment, all Hafsa is interested in is obtaining at least 100 proposals of marriage so she can launch her wedding event business, funded by her father, of course.
Ayesha is considered the old maid of the family because she’s over 21, not engaged, and doesn’t seem to have a single prospect in line. To make matters worse, her best friend Clara, is trying to set her up with a Muslim guy from her workplace. Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly work out as planned. Just when Ayesha doesn’t think things could possibly get any worse (famous last words), her cousin Hafsa is talked into assisting with planning an event at the mosque but never shows up at any of the meetings. Of course, Ayesha being the good cousin she is, goes in her place and, yes, she runs into Clara’s workplace acquaintance, Khalid. Both Ayesha and Khalid jump to conclusions about one another based on superficial appearances and mistaken circumstances. Can these two become friends or will they allow their prejudices to color their opinions? Is it possible to overcome cultural traditions and find true love or should we stick to the tried and true?
Ayesha At Last is a fast-paced romantic comedy with elements of tragedy, inter- and intracultural prejudices, family secrets, and tons of family angst and drama. As a Muslim, and someone that thought they were familiar with Indo-Pakistani culture, it was interesting to learn more about the cultural traditions and expectations, such as the families’ adherence to arranged marriages (no, not all immigrant families have this but some do), the rishta proposals, deference to elders no matter what (similar to Black American culture – always show respect to your elders), and more. I enjoyed Ayesha’s longing to be more creative with her poetry but feeling that she needed to be more productive and a breadwinner. I felt empathy for Khalid because he truly was torn between being a dutiful son, a helpful brother, a good employee, and his ideals of being a devout Muslim (trust me, when you read about Sheila the Shark at his workplace you’ll understand). I liked Amir and his struggles and was glad to see the inclusion of a nominal-Muslim that was dealing with issues that were commonplace in today’s world (again, read the book to understand this a bit better). Yes, there are bad guys in this story, such as Sheila the Shark, Tarek, and even Khalid’s mother to a certain degree. The main storyline is Ayesha and Khalid’s romance, but there are several other intersecting storylines and that made for a much fuller story in my opinion. I enjoyed getting to know Ayesha, Khalid, Ayesha’s Nani (maternal grandmother) and Nana (maternal grandfather), Ayesha’s brother – Idris, life coach Masood (a veritable fount of comic relief), Ayesha’s cousin – Hafsa, Khalid’s sister – Zareena, and Ayesha’s best friend – Clara. I wish we could have gotten to know Ayesha’s mother a bit better, but I realize it’s impossible to get to know every single character introduced in the story. I found Ayesha At Last to be much more than a romantic comedy, it is a delightful story that blends Eastern and Western Cultures and incorporates an oft-misunderstood religion. It seems quite fortuitous that the US release is on the first Muslim holiday for the year. Eid Mubarak to all of my Muslim reader friends. (By the way, I 💜 the US cover!) If you’re into romance, romantic comedies, or just want something a little bit different to read, then I strongly encourage grabbing a copy of Ayesha At Last. Thank you, Ms. Jalaluddin, for this amazing and timely story. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.