Last week I turned 29. Along with the usual homemade Victoria sponge, helium balloon and Selfridges gift vouchers, my Mum’s birthday present to me was the threat that if I’m not engaged by my 30th birthday, she’s sending me off to the Motherland to find a fresh-from-the-Desh husband
When Zara’s Mum puts together the most archaic of arranged marriage resources (not exactly the romcom-worthy love story she had envisioned for herself), she is soon exhausted by her family’s failed attempts to set her up with every vaguely suitable Abdul, Ahmed and Farook that they can find. Zara decides to take matters into her own hands. How hard can it be to find a husband at twenty-nine?
With just a year to go, time is of the essence, so Zara joins a dating app and signs up for speed dating.
She meets Hamza, a kind British Egyptian who shares her values and would make a good husband. Zara knows that not all marriages are based on love (or lust) at first sight but struggles with the lack of spark. Particularly when she can’t stop thinking of someone else . . .
As her next birthday looms, and family pressure intensifies, Zara knows she must make a decision, but will she make the right one?
Zara’s 29th birthday wasn’t just an ordinary birthday; it will be a birthday that she won’t forget after her mum makes it clear that if Zara isn’t engaged by her 30th birthday then she’s being sent to Bangladesh for an arranged marriage. Zara’s mother quickly starts to choose the best picture of her daughter from the thousands of picture on her phone and sets Zara to work creating a marriage CV. However, Zara has no intention of leaving the job of finding her a husband to her family alone but also takes matter into her own hands by subscribing to a dating app. Zara’s dating life has never been busier meeting prospective husbands introduced to her by family and also meeting Hamza who she meets through the dating app. Will Zara find a partner before she turns 30? Will she find the love of her life or settle for something less? Or was the one under her nose the whole time?
When I was reading this book I honestly looked at certain parts and felt that this story was written about me. This has quickly become my new read. At times it felt like Zara was on an emotional rollercoaster and I was on this journey with her. From the first page I knew I was going to like Zara. I definitely could relate to Zara and everything she was going through. Zara is not averse to getting married and she is looking for love but just hasn’t found the right person yet. Zara’s previous relationship which ended badly has made Zara cautious. One of the things that this book portrays perfectly but also very realistically is the pressure within the South Asian community to get married and to be married within a specific marriageable age range. Unfortunately time frames and marriage don’t always match up. Zara now finds that by her 30th birthday she will fall outside of that range and be considered a lost cause or forgotten about where prospective proposals are concerned. As her mother points out the older Zara gets the proposals with slow down and disappear. It was also lovely to see the little mention of people being paired up in heaven before they are born and that once they are born they have to find each other because this is something my grandmother would say to me when I was growing up.
I was quite surprised to learn that this was the author’s debut novel but I can honestly say she’s done a fantastic job. I think that people from the South Asian community can relate to Zara as a person but can also relate to what she is going through. As for the ending of this book I need to read book two urgently because I already know that Zara’s story is far from over.
A book I would highly recommend if you like rom-coms that pull at your heart strings.
Tasneem Abdur-Rashid is a British Bengali writer born and raised in London. A mother of two, Tasneem has worked across media, PR and communications both in the UK and in the UAE. Today, Tasneem spends her days writing novels and her nights co-hosting the award-winning podcast Not Another Mum Pod – and in between, she’s busy trying (and often failing) to be super mum, super wife and super chef. Having recently completed a Master’s in Creative Writing with distinction, Tasneem’s debut rom-com Finding Mr Perfectly Fine will be published by Zaffre/Bonnier on July 7, 2022.
You can find Tasneem on Instagram: @tasneemarashid and @notanothermumpod