Debut novels tickle me. Sometimes I want to shake the authors and tell them what few tidbits I might have on character development or grammar usage. And sometimes I simply delight in a new perspective, a new story, a new voice. Ayesha at Last is a delightful new voice.
The setting is a Toronto, which immediately captured my heart. The major characters, Ayesha, Khalid, and Hafsa are young 20-something Muslims trying to make their way in the modern world. Given their religion and traditional families, everything is called into question, from love, to arranged marriages, to women at work, to relationships with mothers.
Immature Hafsa is plotting to receive 100 marriage proposals ... a personal goal. But other people in her life can get hurt by such a strategy. Her cousin Ayesha, older and more mature, working as a teacher, is much more sensible and knows she doesn’t want someone else choosing a husband or a career for her. She gets herself drawn into a false identity, which stretches the credibility of Jalaluddin’s story a bit, but helps us to see Ayesha’s complexity and loyalty to family. Finally, Khalid, smart, conservative, educated, well-employed, judgmental, and awkward is also authentic, honest, and handsome — a worthy love interest!
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Ayesha at Last and it comes with my full recommendation. The back cover says it is “A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice. Huh.