Ayesha at Last

Berkley. Jun. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9781984802798. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781984802804. F
DEBUT Aspiring poet and substitute teacher Ayesha Shamsi lives with her close-knit family in Toronto. As the eldest daughter, she’s expected to set a good example, but she wants to explore the possibilities of life before settling down. Then she meets Khalid Mirza. Their first encounter doesn’t go smoothly—Ayesha finds him judgmental and too traditional—but their paths continue to cross as Ayesha, posing as her flighty cousin, Hafsa, and Khalid collaborate on a conference at their local mosque. They soon realize that their first impressions of each other were inaccurate—just in time for the announcement of Khalid’s engagement to the real Hafsa. While the love story is the heart of this delightful novel, Jalaluddin also delves into deeper themes, including workplace discrimination, the role of religion in modern society, and the meaning of love and marriage in contemporary culture.
VERDICT There’s an overabundance of Pride and Prejudice retellings, but few are as thoughtful and creative as this stellar debut from an author to watch. Jalaluddin takes a familiar plot and transforms it into a contemporary #ownvoices romance that is fresh, insightful, and thoroughly modern. The story of Ayesha and Khalid will leave readers swooning, but it will also get them thinking.
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