An American Muslim family is torn apart in the struggle between tradition and modernity.
"The wedding was coming together wonderfully. People were arriving on time. There was a table for mango juice and pineapple juice and another for appetizers, replenished as soon as the items were lifted from the platter. White orchids spilled from tall glass vases on every table." But down the hall at the hotel bar, there is an element of this wedding that is not coming together so smoothly—the prodigal brother of the bride. Amar ran away from home years earlier after a series of escalating troubles in high school, rooted in a forbidden romance between him and Amira Ali, the daughter of a prominent local family. Their connection became only more intense when Amira's older brother, a close friend of Amar's, was killed in a car accident. The novel moves back and forth in time to explore the story of parents Layla and Rafiq and their three children, Hadia, Huda, and Amar. The events of 9/11, the temptations of drugs and alcohol, the pressure for academic achievement, and the traditions of arranged marriage all play a role. It is Hadia, the bride, who has reached out to her brother and begged him to attend her wedding, but when he sees his one-time love Amira among the guests, old secrets and betrayals bubble to the surface. Unfortunately, as the story rolls back and forth through the chronology and the perspectives of the different family members, the conflicts are rehashed too many times and at too much length. The debut of 26-year-old Mirza is the first book from Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint at Hogarth; it explores the spiritual lives of its characters with sympathy and passion. The title of the book echoes a song from West Side Story, itself a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Here the warring forces are not two families but one, split by the tension between reverence and rebellion.
The author's passion for her subject shines like the moon in the night sky, a recurrent image in this ardent and powerful novel.