Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, is a big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets. It introduces us to Ayesha, a woman who has a lot going on.
Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single. Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid… How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?
Before you read the story, here are a few things to know about her:
She’s always in a hurry!
“Khalid had seen her several times since he had moved into the neighbourhood two months ago, always with her red ceramic mug, always in a hurry.”
She has a very demanding teaching job
“They’re not my class, Ayesha thought. They need a circus trainer, not a teacher. She flushed, wiped sweaty palms on her pants and tucked the purple notebook back inside her bag. Mary stood outside, a look of pity on her face.”
She likes writing (bad?) poetry
“The other teachers were teaching, not hiding and writing poetry. She squinted at the page, rereading her words. Correction: writing bad poetry.”
She’s a little inexperienced but dreams of falling in love
“She remained silent about the other two items – exploring the world, falling in love- the first as impossible as the second. She had no money, and falling in love would be difficult when she had never even held someone’s hand before.”
She believes that CHAI is life
“All she wanted now was to go home, drink a cup of very strong chai and reconsider her life choices.”
She likes to PARTAY
“But not tonight. Tonight she was going to party like she was still an undergrad. Which meant takeout pizza and old Bollywood movies.”
She immigrated to Canada at young age and understands the importance of family
“ When they’d first immigrated from India to Canada, Ayesha and her family had moved into the three-bedroom townhouse with Hafsa’s family. It was a tight fit for everyone, but her uncle Sulaiman insisted on hosting them. He had immigrated as a young man almost two decades before, and he was happy to have his family join him in Canada, despite the devastating circumstances.”
She’s willing to make sacrifices for her best friend
“ The only thing she was looking forward to tonight was an early bedtime. But loyalty ran deep in the Shamsi clan, and Clara deserved a best friend who could stay up past eight.”
Ayesha at Last is enchanting, achingly funny and uplifting.