Natasha Wilson is a history professor at a university in Scotland with an interest in 19th-century Russian history, specifically the anti-Russian resiNatasha Wilson is a history professor at a university in Scotland with an interest in 19th-century Russian history, specifically the anti-Russian resistance movement. One of her students, Oz Raja, is reportedly a descendant of one of the most popular leaders of this movement. Befriending this student and his mother sets Natasha on an amazing adventure of self-discovery and reconnecting with her past in The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela.
At the age of fourteen, Natasha Hussein was adopted by her stepfather and went from being a Sudanese immigrant to a Scottish resident named Natasha Wilson. Born and raised in Khartoum, Sudan by her Christian Georgian mother and nominally-Muslim Sudanese father, Natasha never felt truly comfortable in Sudan or with her father. After her parents divorce and her mother's second marriage, Natasha did her best to fit in. In 2010, she is a college professor that has published several well-received articles and is respected by her peers. She's not quite sure why, but she's drawn to one of her students, Oz (Osama) Raja, a disenfranchised Muslim. Their connection grows due to one of Oz's forefathers, the renowned Imam Shamil. After visiting Oz and his mother, Malak, Natasha has the opportunity to see Imam Shamil's sword and other items. Although Natasha and Malak are concerned about Oz's curiosity about jihad and his perceived persecution of Muslims, neither takes it seriously until Oz is arrested after downloading suspicious materials. In a post-9/11 world, a little suspicion goes a long way and Natasha is perceived to be tainted by her visit to the Raja home and receiving an email from Oz about a possible research project for a dissertation. As Natasha attempts to rebound from these suspicions, she must also contend with phone calls from Sudan about her estranged father's failing health. Is it possible Natasha and Malak missed signs of Oz's radicalization? Is Oz, in fact, being radicalized or simply curious? Are Muslims being unfairly targeted in a post-9/11 world? Can Natasha reconnect with her father and Sudanese heritage?
After reading The Kindness of Enemies, I had to take a day just to think about it and what I could say about this book. Did I enjoy this book? The answer is a resounding YES! However, The Kindness of Enemies wasn't a book that I could simply finish reading and then set aside. There are stories within stories within stories in this book. There's Natasha's story, past and present; Oz and Malak's story, present; and, then there's the story of Imam Shamil. I was astonished to learn that Imam Shamil was a real leader in the anti-Russia movement in the 19th century. It was fascinating to read about his life, albeit a fictionalized version of his life, and that of his family. I enjoyed the blend of contemporary and historical fiction and the parallels found between the 19th-century and 21st-century storylines (trust me, there are a few...read it for yourself to discover just how many there are). The majority of the characters are all flawed and realistically portrayed. They all have their doubts and fears. This is not a story about being right or wrong or even having the right set of beliefs or not, it is about humans struggling to find their place in the world, do the right thing, and the perception of those struggles and behaviors by others. I get to read a lot of books, some good, some not so good, and The Kindness of Enemies is one of the best books I've had the pleasure to read this year and one that I strongly encourage you to read. I don't normally post a star-rating with my reviews, but I give this book five stars (yes, I really enjoyed it that much). ...more
Adam Gibson is the epitome of the young, urban professional. He is a self-made millionaire and used to getting what he wants when he want3.5 star read
Adam Gibson is the epitome of the young, urban professional. He is a self-made millionaire and used to getting what he wants when he wants it. He isn't wholly selfish in that he also gives backs to the community and feels that if he gives his promise to someone then he must follow through. In Canadian society, Adam is hot and his life is constantly in the spotlight. Rania Ahmed is the exact opposite of Adam. She has a fervent belief in God and that only God has the right to guide her life. She is quiet, circumspect, modest, and an intensely private person. She goes to work, has few friends and hobbies, and shies away from the spotlight. Even though Adam and Rania are polar opposites, there is simply something about Rania that immediately attracts Adam and he isn't willing to take no for an answer.
A Silent Prayer provides a nice spin on the love at first sight story between complete opposites. Adam is willing to make compromises to keep Rania in his life, but is he willing to commit to a belief in God? Rania may be attracted to Adam but she isn't willing to forego her religious principles for the sake of romance or love. Both Adam and Rania have secrets and although Adam shares his secrets with Rania, Rania isn't willing to share with Adam for fear it will mean the immediate demise to their friendship.
I found A Silent Prayer to be a fast-paced and rather enjoyable read. Perhaps it was my inner prude, but I found the profanity (mild profanity but profanity nonetheless) to be rather off-putting and didn't feel as if it added to the story. I rather enjoyed the portrayal of Rania as a modern Muslim in Western society. Although Rania doesn't wear the traditional head-covering, she is quite devout in her beliefs and religious practices. It was rather nice to read about a Muslim that is unapologetic for their belief and completely unwilling to compromise even for love. I had issues with Adam, but then I've never dealt with a millionaire before. Based on the news and stories I've read about professional athletes and other young celebutantes, it is quite possible Adam's character is more realistic than fiction. There were some paranormal aspects to the story that were rather intriguing and I hope will be explained in future stories. Obviously there's quite a bit more to the story, but if I tell you then you won't have to read it. Did I like A Silent Prayer? Yes. Did I have issues with A Silent Prayer? Yes, but that was only related to the profanity. Can I recommend A Silent Prayer? Wholeheartedly! If you've ever wondered about the inner struggle that many young Muslims face in a world not exactly accepting to the religion of Islam, or if you simply enjoy romance, then you'll definitely want to add A Silent Prayer to your reading list. But I must warn you that this story does leave you hanging, so you'll also need to add the next book in this series: A Prayer Heeded (A Prayer Series II) to your list as well. ...more
The first volume in The Prayer Series - A Silent Prayer ends with Adam Gilbert demonstrating an extreme act of jealousy that embarrasses and wounds RaThe first volume in The Prayer Series - A Silent Prayer ends with Adam Gilbert demonstrating an extreme act of jealousy that embarrasses and wounds Rania Ahmed, so she leaves him. The only problem is her apartment has been destroyed in a fire, she has no relatives in Toronto, and has left her wallet at Adam's home. Rania finds herself emotionally battered and bruised as well as homeless. She turns to a shelter that has been built and supported by Adam's generosity. Is it possible for these two seemingly star-crossed lovers to find a way back to one another? Rania is a devout Muslimah (female Muslim) and she tries hard to hold fast to her faith and beliefs, despite her attraction to Adam Gibson. There are many secrets in Rania's past and uncovering these secrets is the key to unlocking her heart. But how can Adam find the key if he doesn't know where she is. Adam realizes he's made a big mistake and is willing to do whatever it takes to gain Rania's forgiveness; he just hopes it isn't too late.
A Prayer Heeded is much more than a romance; it is a blend of magical realism, paranormal-fantasy, and religious myth blended in with a romance. Rania and Adam know that they love one another, but they also know that they come from different cultural backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds and vastly different religious backgrounds. The first two are relatively easy to work around, but having a devout believer in a relationship with an atheist is beyond hard work. Although both Rania and Adam are willing to work to overcome this difficulty, there are those deep secrets in Rania's background that must be dealt with in order for their relationship to move forward. Regrettably Adam fails Rania again when she finally divulges all of her deepest secrets: a previous marriage, marital rape, beatings, infidelity on the part of her husband, and an ongoing issue with a lovelorn jinn named Khaldun. Adam is willing to deal with almost everything except the notion of the jinn. It's easier to accept the idea that Rania is possibly schizophrenic rather than something supernatural. After much trial and error, including Rania's departure from Canada and an arranged marriage in Dubai, Rania and Adam are able to accept each other's love and move forward in marriage. One would think that is the end of their problems but it just signals the beginning of new problems for their love.
I found A Prayer Heeded to be just as fast-paced a read as A Silent Prayer. The idea of a lovelorn jinn stalking women for four thousand years was intriguing, to say the least. I did have problems with the profanity used. There’s a lot of the f-word used in this story. Once my inner-prude was able to overcome that issue, I was able to enjoy the story. Yes there are a lot of elements to this story: supernatural-paranormal-fantasy, religion, marital rape, and more. Ms. Ahsan does an admirable job in combining all of these into a cohesive story with interesting and fully developed characters and plausible action. It was nice to gain more insight into who Rania is and why she behaves the way she does. It was also nice to finally get to see her interact with her father and learn more about that relationship. As a Muslim I did have some issues with the notion that Adam converts to Islam but continues to drink and never seems to pray the obligatory daily prayers, but I also recognize that there are Muslims that give lip-service to Islam and never actually fulfill their religious obligations. Other than that minor issue, I found A Prayer Heeded to be an enjoyable read. If you're interested in reading a story that features an East-meets-West angle, has a supernatural-paranormal component, and blends in romance with religious awareness, then you'll definitely want to read A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded....more