Thinking of his future sometimes felt like looking down a long tunnel, and even if he squinted he could hardly picture what his life would be like when he stepped out at the other end.
A Place for Us follows the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered in celebration of their eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding. Amar, the youngest of the family, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. And his parent’s, Rafiq and Layla, must face the choices they all made all those years ago. A Place for Us spans decades through the eyes of a different family member, marking pivotal moments in the past that broke the bonds and pulled them apart.
It isn’t often a book that manages to enchant me as such as this book did. I had closed the final page at 2 am and truly felt what it mean to have a heavy heart. A Place for Us hit me harder than I would have ever expected. I wasn’t even planning on reviewing this book, because I feel like anything I write could never truly explain how much this book resonated with me.
Being character-driven, Mirza blew me away at how well each character come through. Amar is the youngest of the family, his departure from the family was years in the making. He feels trapped within the demands of his family, culture and internal turmoil. I felt extremely attached to him especially in the deep moments where he feels like as though anything he does is never good enough. Hadia was almost like looking in the mirror. Her constant need to please her family and community, her entire self-worth is built upon approval. The enormous pressure to succeed as the eldest silences some of her best thought. However, Huda, the middle child, was almost non-existent. She appears as a messenger between Amar and Hadia, but other than that, her presence was almost forgettable, whether it was intentional or not is unclear. Rafiq and Layla are of an older generation who struggle to raise their kids within their cultural values which, in turn, affect the way their children balance themselves between two different cultures. I found myself quite angry at their actions, their adamant behaviour quite literally pushed their children away and they don’t realise it until it’s too late.
Overall, A Place for Us is overflowing with little moments that resonated with me deeply. It emphasises the importance of family, love, and most importantly, forgiveness. The structure of A Place for Us is unconventional: the novel switches from points of view, jumping from the past to the present. I know that other readers can find it confusing, but I found that Mirza pulled it off well. Her writing is naturalistic and easy to understand. What isn’t said is often more affecting and resonating, and Mirza is a natural at tugging at the heartstrings in the quietest of moments.
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