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 at Last was one book I’d been very, very hyped for ever since I first heard about it, so I must say I was a tad wary when I finally held the much-awaited (slightly intimidating for its length) book in my hands. What if it wasn’t what I expected it to be??? I am, however, extremely pleased to report to you that not only did it exceed my expectations, but it also became an instant favourite of mine- something I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone. For real!
A Muslim-Canadian retelling of Pride & Prejudice, the author manages to keep most elements from the original while incorporating even more into the story and keeping it entirely unique. Ayesha is a determined, opinionated lead who cared about her family so much that she gave up on her dreams of being a poet to pursue a more practical career path, that of a teacher. The story takes off at a time where she’s just dipping her toe into the daunting waters of high school as a substitute teacher and trying to be not too bothered about the fact that her younger cousin, Hafsa, was faring much better in the marriage proposals department than she was. Not that she was interested in an arranged marriage or anything, but there’s only so much one can take of judgmental aunties and snide remarks, right?
“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.“
Khalid, who recently moved into Ayesha’s neighbourhood, thinks he has it all figured. Devout and set in his ways, with a mother who dotes on him (and pretty much controls everything in his life), he only has to wait before his mother finds him the perfect bride. Love can wait till after marriage…or so he thought. Khalid finds himself interested in Ayesha despite himself, and that, precisely is where the fun starts. Ayesha and Khalid couldn’t be more different. Ayesha, a modern Muslim, cannot for the life of her understand Khalid and his rather conservative ways. The latter frequented the mosque, found comfort in prayer, and didn’t mind sticking out in society if it meant him being able to be and wear what he wanted (traditional clothing, full beard, etc). Ayesha and Khalid are fully determined to not be distracted by each other, but little do they know that their paths were only bound to cross more and more with time.
One of the things that I loved most about this book was how close knit this community was. The characters, their relationships with each other and their relationship with the mosque were all so refreshing to read about. In fact, this was the one book after Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali that perfectly portrayed just how important a role the community and mosque play in the lives of Muslims in societies like these, and to say that I was pleased would be a massive understatement. Apart from Ayesha, Khalid and his mom, I loved seeing Ayesha’s family interact with each other, and also enjoyed the motley cast of characters we get acquainted with throughout the course of the story. Be it Hafsa, Ayesha’s fickle cousin, or the wretched Tarek, I had great fun biding my time to see what the story had in store for them all.
In addition to the family drama, the author also dealt with important issues like workplace racism and Islamophobia within the story, all while making sure a healthy dose of humour was maintained at all times. I can’t remember when I had such pure, unadulterated fun while reading a book last- I was thoroughly entertained and hooked right from page one. There were times when I found myself getting impatient with Khalid and the leads took quiiite some time realizing their feelings for each other, but there was so much else going on at any given time that I honestly didn’t mind it at all. Ayesha at Last was a refreshing, delightful halal romance and I can’t wait to read it again already!
Have you read this one already? If yes, did you adore it as much as I did? Were you Team Khalid or Team Ayesha? Let’s talk in the comments below! xx