Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin offered my a double take on my literary priorities. Uzma Jalaluddin is a Canadian author, and she approaches a romance between young Muslims. I may know a thing, or two, about religious dating and arranged marriages, but I am not familiar with the Muslim customs in this respect.
Although in many reviews, the comparison with Jane Austen novels comes - too easily - at hand, I rather prefer to take the book as it really is: an adventurous story with lively characters living in a Muslim community in Canada. The author also includes elements regarding discrimination and prejudice against religious Muslims.
Hafsa and Ayesha are cousins with different personalities and interests still brought together by family ties and histories. Time has come that they are getting married and the potential candidates are quite a few. How would they cope with the pression of old traditions while keeping a foot in the modern world?
Although not all characters are equally built, but the interactions between them and the ways in which the story unfolds is full of surprises and keeps your attention awake until the very end, although you bet how the story will actually end. I particularly loved the assigned capacity of the characters to take decisions on their own, while remaining faithful to their traditions and upbringing.
Especially for those judging superficially the Muslim community in an unilateral, often biased, way, Ayesha at Last brings on so many nuances and dimensions to every individual introduced into the story.
If you are looking for a good novel about young Muslims, this book is a good introduction, which keeps you awake until the very end thanks to the good writing and well-built literary structure.
Rating: 4 stars