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Love—both thwarted and realized—is the main theme of this first novel set in the subculture of Indian Muslims.

Nasr seems to have it all—a successful career in New York City, an active social life and a doting family. According to his mother, however, he’s missing the major component of success—a fiancée—so she goes about rectifying this social inadequacy by arranging a marriage. While Nasr’s good friend Jameela cautions him that “ ‘[d]epth…can’t be assessed visually’” and that Indians are “ ‘susceptible to commodification…the valuation of people as property,’ ” Nasr reluctantly succumbs to his mother’s connubial enthusiasm. With ludicrously high—and sometimes overly critical—standards (candidates are too religious, not religious enough, too Old World, too New World, and so on), Nasr finds himself attracted, and eventually engaged, to the modest and self-effacing Farah, a woman in great contrast to the outspoken Jameela. The world of their engagement, like the larger social and political world, is then disrupted by the traumatic events of September 11. Knowing that Nasr works in New York, friends and family seek him out for his perspective on the destruction of the Twin Towers, though he explains he was in London at the time of the attack. Just at the point when Nasr consciously realizes his strong attraction to the spunky and iconoclastic Jameela, a relationship that’s been developing spontaneously over many years of family friendship, she discovers that her fiancé Javaid is brutally attacked merely for being a Muslim in a post-9/11 world. Javaid responds by deciding rather abruptly to move to Pakistan, which he envisions as a more welcoming environment, but this is obviously a move that would physically separate Nasr and Jameela and make the possibility of further romance difficult, perhaps impossible.

A novel of considerable interest, steeped in Old-World traditions and New-World realities.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-385-52460-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2008