It is not an easy thing, describing this book. A family saga? An immigrant story? A bildungsroman?
All of this and more?
However you’d like to group it under, there is no doubt that this was an ambitious book. A book filled with larger than life characters. A book full of energy and colour and spirit.
It is 2003 and Ella, home from college, sneaks into the Brooklyn house of her aunt Hashi and uncle Anwar.
Ella is the adopted daughter, technically the niece. Her parents died in Bangladesh when she was very young. She’s at a crossroads in life. As is her sister Charu (Anwar’s daughter), about to head to NYU. Charu thinks herself an entrepreneur/designer, making hijabs out of unusual cloth for sale. Ella has also had a bit of a crush on Charu for quite a while now.
Anwar owns an apothecary, selling homemade beauty products, and Hashi runs a beauty salon out of their home.
And add to this mix Charu’s friend Maya, the daughter of a strict religious cleric, who has run away from home and is staying with them. It just so happens that Maya’s father is the very man whose storefront Anwar rents.
It’s a summer of love and relationships of the ‘forbidden’ kind, ‘forbidden’ more because of the culture and religion that they grew up in. Ella has her own awakening about her sexual and personal identity that is both brave and beautiful.
A bright, effervescent book about self-discovery and belonging. The lush verdant settings of New York and Bangladesh, and the detailed lives of the characters allow the reader to know them well and definitely made me think about how their lives are like now that the book has ended. Always a sign of a good read and an excellent writer.