Growing up Canadian, I’m used to coveting thing that I can’t get here. Like adorable housewares from Target, the television series Younger, or burgers from Shake Shack. Sorry, Mel, only in America.
So imagine my surprise, when last year I tweeted about my love for Ayesha At Last and was told by a friend that she couldn’t buy it in the States. I felt superior. Finally something—other than Coffee Crisps and Old Dutch chips—that’s only in Canada. Pity.
But your wait is over, my American amigos. Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is now available for preorder with a spiffy new cover that’s even prettier than the Canadian one. And here’s why you should get your pre-order finger clicking.
Ayesha at Last is a wonderful cocktail of a book. Wait, can a Muslim romance be a cocktail? Okay, it’s a multi-layered cake of delight. I relish a good setting, but even better is a new world in familiar surroundings. It takes place in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto that’s also famous for being… my birthplace! Ayesha is a heroine with artistic dreams, feminist determination, and practicality—all tucked under a stylish purple hijab. And the hero Khalid is stern and rigid on the outside, but underneath he longs for love and connection.
Jalaluddin brilliantly layers her book. The central story is the growing love between Ayesha and Khalid. They dislike each other initially, but are drawn together, often because they’re the only sensible people in the room. Simultaneously, the reader is forced to question his/her own prejudices. Would we assume, as Ayesha does, that Khalid with his long beard and robe is a fundamentalist (she calls him a fundy!) and thus disqualify him as the hero for a modern, independent heroine?
There are literary layers as well. The Indian-Muslim community is the perfect modern day setting for an Austen novel: a place where marriages are still arranged, where people save themselves for marriage, and where running off with a man can still ruin a family’s reputation. When Jalaluddin places dialogue straight from Pride and Prejudice into her book, the words fit the characters perfectly. There’s a lot of Shakespeare as well: direct quotes and the old mistaken identity trope.
Plus all the feels! Without spoiling anything, the scenes where Khalid believes mistakenly that his heart’s wish has come true are so poignant. Khalid is already true to his faith and his family, so he treats treat his potential bride with equal devotion.
Am I making the book seem like a serious read? It’s not! There’s so much humour in the form of an always-hustling life coach and a Hawaiian-shirted iman with the best throwaway lines. There are delicious foods, Bollywood movies, plus-sized lingerie, and my very favourite trope: a makeover!
So, what are you waiting for? Order up so you can be the first to dig into this lovely layer cake of a book. It’s one you’ll want to reread to appreciate all the details.