Publisher : NB Publishing
Genre : Young Adult | Historical Fiction (?)
Page Count: 288
Synopsis : The child of a forbidden marriage, Maha grows up happily in Cape Town until her world changes forever when her parents are killed at a political rally. At the age of eight, Maha is reclaimed by her loving but staid Indian grandparents and taken to live in Durban. Growing up in the claustrophobia of the suburbs what she dubs Slumurbia Maha reveals a love for the outrageous as she clashes with the conventions of her community. Always a free spirit, she soon learns how to weave around the strict boundaries of Muslim life and as a rebellious teenager, nothing holds her back from experiencing first love, a bit of partying and a tantalising romance (all between prayers, of course). But when it counts the most, rules must be obeyed and as she heads towards her twentieth birthday, there is no way Maha can avoid Marriage to a Suitable Boy. With refreshing energy, Maha treats us to the ups and downs of her passionate (though sometimes quite vulnerable) young heart, and a life in which she’s not quite in charge. (From Goodreads)
*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review*
(Minor Spoiler that won’t affect your reading experience)
This book was quite the hilarious, honest ride. Despite being a Muslim myself,I rarely -if ever- read books about Muslim main characters because I feel like they mostly revolve around religion as the main plot and I. DON’T. LIKE. THAT. So when I saw the author offering e-copies of her book on Twitter I jumped on the occasion and requested it. And what a refreshing surprise it was, I really enjoyed it.
Before reading it, I perused the Goodreads reviews most of which were really positive but one thing that stood out to me is how people kept saying that the book is heavy on South-african slang, that it was basically written that way, and that people who weren’t familiar with it wouldn’t get it. I must admit it has A LOT of it, which is quite normal but fret not, even though it gets confusing at times, that rarely happens and everything is pretty understandable from contexte. That goes for the religious elements as well, they’re well explained so even non-muslims won’t have any trouble understanding what was happening.
The writing is so witty and funny that it had me laughing out loud quite a few times, despite it being set in times of apartheid, the book managed to stay light. And what was really surprising and amazing about this is how freely it explored puberty -oh the GLORIOUS period talk- and sex among other subjects that are rarely tackled in books and that can be quite taboo in muslim culture. Moving on.
The story starts with a brieve story of how Maha’s parents met, how they die etc.. and it moves on flowing nicely to when she goes to live with her grandparents and how her life unfolds after that. What I liked above all is that this was a story about a Muslim girl growing up like every other person, yes, religion is a non-negligeable part of it but it is not everything. She goes about her life, growing up, having crushes, making mistakes, gossiping and all but here’s the thing: Her grandparents are the most ancient backwards thinking creatures ever.
Maha cannot go to college, she has to have a specific type of friends and her life basically revolves around getting married. From the day she gets her period, her grandma starts training her in doing various domestic works so that she can become the perfect wife any suitor dreams of but she’s against that and rebels against it in every small, possible way she could. She’s a little feminist in her own way if you ask me.
What I loved about this book though is how it didn’t limit itself to the conservative type of Muslim family. Through Maha’s friends and distant family, Sumayya Lee presents various kinds of muslim families, from the most conservative to the most open-minded.
I didn’t have anything bad against this book whatsover, I was LOVING it, up until a certain thing happens that made me uneasy and it just didn’t sit well with me. Maha was with her granparents in Mecca -which is the holiest place to us Muslims- for the small pilgrimage and that is a 100% spiritual experience to strenghten our relationship with God and all. No distractions. What happens? Maha wonders off kissing pretty prince boy who makes her feel things she never felt before and that just made me cringe so much because realistically speaking no one would do that there, no matter how young and foolish. I’m really curious what my fellow muslim reviewers think of this, so please, tell me because I need to know if you think that’s normal. So, eventhough I loved everything before and after that, from that point forward I kept thinking about that scene especially when she was talking to/about him.
I really loved Maha for how confident and sassy she was but also for how much of a typical teenager she was. She threw tantrums, was immature at times. She had doubts as she was trying to figure out herself and how to balance religion and her granparents very severe restrictions with the things she wanted to do and have. Some aspects of that were really relatable to me. And I also adored her with Zeenat, she was completely herself around her. Their relationships is so realistic, full of ups and downs and Zeenat was kind of a big sister to her.
To wrap this all, Maha got her happy ending. I loved how it was sort of a compromise making everyone happy. Her grandparents included.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read The Story of Maha? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.