Since A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza has been out for 18 months, you’ve probably already heard and read at least something about it. So rather than an in-depth review, I’ll make it a “Monday Mini-Review.”
It’s the story of an Indian Muslim family in Northern California during the first two decades of the new century. Mirza examines the life span of the family in all its permutations: as a whole, the relationship of the parents (who immigrated in the 90s), and the various and complex relationships among the parents and their three children (two girls and a boy). The son, a sensitive and restless boy who becomes a prodigal son, is central to the plot.
A Place for Us is about faith, sin and forgiveness, respect and rebellion, love and heartbreak, and finding one’s own path between two cultures.
Mirza is exquisitely sensitive to each character’s inner life and the countless conflicts, large and small, that energize and afflict them (and us). She moves back and forth in time, covering events from different characters’ perspectives, giving us more insight into the characters and the import of the events each time we encounter it.
A Place for Us is also three very different love stories (the parents’ traditional marriage, older daughter Hadia’s more modern approach, and son Amar’s all-consuming love for a girl in their close-knit Indian Muslim community).
Like all great novels, it’s both remarkably specific and yet powerfully universal. I’m amazed that it’s Mirza’s first novel. Buy it! Read it!