Sunday 26 June 2016

Book ~ "Written in the Stars" (2015) Aisha Saeed

From Goodreads ~ Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: she may choose what to study, how to wear her hair and what to be when she grows up - but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating - even friendship with a boy - is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. 

Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed - her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! 

Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif ... if he can find her before it’s too late.

Naila's parents are originally from Pakistan.  Seventeen-year-old Naila and her brother were born and raised in Florida.  For the last year, Naila has secretly been dating Saif and they are counting the days until they go away to university (along with her friend, Carla) and she will have more freedom.

When her parents discover Naila and Saif's relationship, they pack up the family and head to Pakistan for a month on vacation as she has brought shame to the family.  But their time away gets extended again and again and Naila realizes that not only are her parents not allowing her to go to university after all, they are looking for a husband for her and are going to force her into an arranged marriage.

This was an interesting story as it was so culturally different and I enjoyed it.  I liked the writing style and thought it flowed well.  It is written in first person perspective from Naila's point of view.  I think the author did a good job in showing how Naila was caught between the traditional ways of her parents and being a "good" daughter but struggling to be who she wanted to be since she was raised with more freedom in the U.S.  Being back in Pakistan, even though that was her roots, was a bit of a culture shock for her, especially when she realized what her parents were up to.

The author herself is in a semi-arranged marriage.  When she was 22, she had met her husband only once, surrounded by family. before getting engaged and only a few times after that before their wedding day.  Twelve years and two children later, she is still married to "the love of her life".  She has known other women who weren't as lucky ... forced into marriages they wouldn't have chosen for themselves.  Though Naila's story is fiction, the author said she hopes "to provide a voice" to girls who feel they have no choice.  It seems unbelievable to me that in this day and age that forced arranged marriages still happen.  It's crazy that parents are more concerned about their reputations than the happiness of their children.

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