Title: Ayesha At Last
Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
Pub Date: June 2019
My Rating: ★★★★☆
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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.
When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, 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 is an incredible modern romance with a nod to the classic Austen novel. The reimagined history gives us intriguing Muslim characters, which I’d say are not popular in books marketer towards non-Muslim romance readers. This book is the first one of the kind that I came across without actively looking for stories with Muslim characters. I’m so happy that I found this book! I was intrigued by the representation of romance in an immigrant Muslim community, where west Asian traditions clash with Canadian culture.
Ayesha is a school teacher, still in her twenties, in her community, she may be considered a spinster, already not a desirable wife-material because of her “stubbornness” to pursue a working career, and because of her sharp tongue.
Khalid is a dedicated Muslim man, who in a world that is pressuring him to adapt and blend it, doesn’t give up on his religion and how he expresses his beliefs, mainly how he dresses. He is humble, devoted to his mom, and convinced that his mother knows what is best for him, including who is the best wife candidate for him.
The worlds of Ayesha and Khalid clash, when they are put together in a team working on a Muslim teen event that will happen in their mosque. Their stands on the subject of arrange marriage are not the only thing they may disagree about. In a series of some unfortunate events, they become friends, until Khalid’s engagement to… Ayesha’s cousin is announced.
The book brings up a timely topic on how Muslims are treated in western societies. How their traditions and romance practices are different than what other cultures describe as ‘normal’. It shows how racism in work impacts the Muslim community but also shows the positive examples of people that see beyond the buzz words associated with Muslims that are constantly thrown at us from media and politicians.
Setting the social and political aspects of the book, above all, it is a romance story that gives justice to the classic romance plotline of Pride and Prejudice, and I cannot find anything to fault in the story.