Reviewer Caryl Worden:
From as early as she can remember, Caryl has had her nose in a book.
Even as a teenager, there's no where she'd rather be than browsing
the shelves in libraries and book stores. Which explains why her
career centred around words. After almost 30 years as a journalist
and magazine editor, Caryl recently shifted vocations and now
explores writing short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. You
can read some of her work at http://www.carylworden55.blogspot.com. (Please note that unfortunately Caryl recently passed away).
Author: Saadia Ahmed
Digital (e-Book) Publisher: Saadia Ahmed
I'm sad to say this book disappointd me. The premise presented was of two young East Asian women grappling with clashes in the traditional ways of their parents and their own adoption of modern American culture, especially when it comes to love, marriage and family. Very intriguing, I thought.
Plus author Saadia Ahmed's background lends itself to the tale. She was born in Pakistan but moved with her family to the U.S. when she was 19. She works as a corporate accountant, the same career she chose for her main character.
Unfortunately Ahmed merely skims the surface, in the first half of of the book especially. I wondered if this was meant for a Young Adult audience, which may be more appropriate, except that the main characters are graduating college not high school.
The story is ninety per cent dialogue, which in one way focuses it nicely in a direct face-to-face fashion, but doesn't allow for context. Ahmed tells, instead of showing. The conversations sound accurately like today's pre-teens chattering on their mobiles, and they are done in a staccato way; changing sentence length would offer more range of emotion. The conflict within the main character, Reena, is portrayed in a surface way, but the author doen't reveal any internal dialogue to reveal if Reena is aware of it at all.
There is also a lot of repetition of themes: Mom and daughter's arguments, best friend Sofia's constant words of warning and their obvious foreshadowings, and Reena's assertion of being a "modern Persian woman" yet who is obsessed with what a man will think of her, and his looks and success. I lost track of how many times Reena comments on how handsome boyfriend Brian is.
However as the story progresses through the girls' marriages and break ups, the tone also becomes more mature; narrative expands, characters deepen some.
With a thorough edit and re-write paying particular attention to some mechanics and the emotional arc, I believe this book still has solid potential. There are some conflicts from a 1950s mindset that beg exploring: women's disempowerment; "whites versus browns"; self image; and cultural differences in sexual expectations. The original idea of "The First" stands, and that, after all else, is what builds the story.