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I Can't Think Straight

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Tala, a London-based Palestinian, is preparing for her elaborate Middle Eastern wedding when she meets Leyla, a young British Indian woman who is dating her best friend.Spirited Christian Tala and shy Muslim Leyla could not be more different from each other, but the attraction is immediate and goes deeper than friendship. But Tala is not ready to accept the implications of the choice her heart has made for her and escapes back to Jordan, while Leyla tries to move on with her new-found life, to the shock of her tradition-loving parents.As Tala's wedding day approaches, simmering tensions come to boiling point and the pressure mounts for Tala to be true to herself.Moving between the vast enclaves of Middle Eastern high society and the stunning backdrop of London's West End, I Can't Think Straight explores the clashes between East and West, love and marriage, conventions and individuality, creating a humorous and tender story of unexpected love and unusual freedoms.

216 pages, Paperback

First published November 11, 2008

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About the author

Shamim Sarif

10 books420 followers
Born in the UK, Shamim is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and director.

Her next book, The Athena Protocol, is an all-female YA contemporary action thriller that is published by Harper Teen in September 2019.

Her debut novel, The World Unseen, won a Betty Trask award and the Pendleton May First Novel award.

Shamim has adapted and directed the films of three of her novels including, most recently, Despite the Falling Snow. The book was published by Headline in the UK and St Martin’s Press in the US. The movie stars Rebecca Ferguson and Charles Dance in a story of love and betrayal in cold war Russia. Her films have won 47 awards internationally.

Shamim’s third novel, I Can’t Think Straight, formed the basis of her cult hit film of the same name.

Shamim’s book festival appearances include Hay-on-Wye, Cheltenham and Edinburgh.

An accomplished speaker, Shamim has spoken at TED events worldwide, at the INK Conference in India and DLD in Munich. Corporate speaking events have included Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Disney.

Shamim lives in London with her wife, Hanan, and their two sons

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 232 reviews
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,052 reviews49.2k followers
February 16, 2020
ok so the author directed the movie

the movie is word for word from the book so

basically i read the book
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews769 followers
July 29, 2015
Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

This was the perfect book to read while I was snowed in and work was closed.

Tala is a Palestinian living in London. She’s very outgoing and forthright. After three engagements, her parents really hope this one will stick. Hani is a very nice guy and Tala loves him. Leyla is an Indian Muslim. She works at a job she’s not passionate about, while her true love is writing. Other than a mutual attraction, Tala and Leyla have little in common. They both come from strict, traditional cultures that don’t have a very positive view about homosexuality. Despite these difficulties, the two women eventually fall in love.

The romance happens a little fast, and the plot is rather predictable. Still, I gulped it down in one sitting and enjoyed this light and pleasant story. What I liked most about it is the glimpse into middle-eastern culture, the clash between traditional and western values, religious and class differences, and the interactions between lovers, friends, and family.

There was a large cast of interesting, well-developed secondary characters and other minor characters that could have been fleshed out a little more. I was especially curious about Tala’s uncle, Ramzi, who was likely gay. It would have been so much easier on Tala if they were closer and opened up to each other about their sexuality. Another interesting minor character was Rani, Tala’s mother’s Indian housekeeper who occasionally spits in her coffee. I get that she probably resented the family’s wealth, but I didn’t understand her acrimony.

If you are looking for graphic sex scenes, look elsewhere. This is a thoughtful and humorous story about two young women who eventually find themselves and choose a different path. The ending made me smile.

Maybe I'll watch the film while the book is still fresh in my mind.

Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,155 followers
March 6, 2018
On the one hand I want to flail and scream about this book because I enjoyed it so much and on the other I want to shake whoever edited it.

It is BRILLIANT FUN. There's rich jetsetting Palestinian Tala in Amman, on her fourth engagement, and middle class British Indian Leyla who works in her dad's insurance company but wants to be a writer. They meet, they fall hard, both have to come to terms with their sexuality and also with the different cultural pressures.

It's an ensemble piece, where the heroines spend more time apart than together. There is a big and beautifully drawn cast: the girls' husbands-to-be (who are both *lovely* and thus not plot drivers, satisfyingly--this is primarily a book about the ways women interact), their gaggle of sisters of varying personalities, and especially the mothers, who are a study in compare and contrast. Tala's mother in particular is a monstrous creation of pride and selfishness and her comeuppance is small but long led up to, and perfect.

It's hugely readable, fantastic storytelling, with a lovely soap-opera compulsive-reading quality and a lovely glow of hope. Also absolutely hilarious at points, I laughed out loud. Not subtle, perhaps, but with good if loudly made points about internalised homophobia and misogyny and cultural oppression (Tala's sister married to a domineering man, quietly starving herself)

And all of the above goes double because it is not entirely easy for the reader to follow the book. I have never seen headhopping like it in my life--there's paragraphs where we switch viewpoint three times!--and in the Kobo version at least there are no scene or line breaks, so you read a paragraph about Leyla in London, move to the next, and discover we're with Tala in Jordan a month later without any indication of a scene change. It is a huge testament to the book's intense readability that this didn't cause me to hurl it across the room.

I enjoyed it wildly ( if I shelve a book as 'soap' that is high praise), but an editor who understands why point of view matters and a decent ebook formatter would make a huge difference to the reading experience.
Profile Image for angie.
365 reviews40 followers
October 30, 2012
Thoughts on a book so good I'll need more time to wrap up my thoughts...

I really, really like this book. It is not just well-written and thoughtful, gripping and genuine, _I Can't Think Straight_ speaks to anyone who has ever felt pressured to be part of something because parents or society expect it, not because it is what you yourself truly want.

'But there was a reason why romance and passion were so suited to fiction; and to learn this lesson was a function of maturity...a growth away from the hotheadedness of youth." A mother thinks this as she busily and self-importantly works on the finishing touches of her daughter's engagement party. She dismisses love as a reason for marriage or she would if she even gave one second of thought to her daughter's impending marriage as a personal thing and not THE event of the season.

"Maybe we expect too much," a daughter says to her new friend, in the beginning stages of questioning why she is not more happy to be in a relationship with a man she feels she's supposed to love, but not one she does.

Shamim Sarif perfectly and painfully captures how smothering it can feel to do something out of family obligation and societal demands.

Understanding that life and love are not what they are in romantic comedies is one thing (some of us may even feel that movies ruined us for love) but looking at passionless marriage as "our lot in life" is something else entirely. No one should have go to through life like that.

Here’s a passage about “silent yearnings” and emotions one confronts when self-denial is no longer an option:

"What they (her crushes) all had in common was that the attraction was usually hidden, forever unspoken and always unrequited…Not that this potential meltdown was a reason to lie to herself, she knew, but up until now, it had happened that all the women she had liked IN THAT WAY were unavailable, uninterested or entirely unconscious of the situation and this had largely removed from Leyla’s shoulders the burden of deciding what to do in the event of an actual relationship... What she wanted, what she one day hoped for, was a simple mutual attraction."

I Can't Think Straight may be in large part about two nice, likable and realistic women eventually finding and falling in love with each other after years of not understanding why they each just couldn't fall in love with a "nice young man." But it's also about how being forced to follow the path that is deemed "moral" and "fitting" for a young woman can ultimately hurt every one in her life, especially the men they so desperately try to have romantic feelings for, but just end up hurting.

Shamim Sarif delivers an extremely touching, sincere, lovely, non-preachy, heartfelt story about love that is breathtaking and

I need more time and better words to give it the justice it deserves. Already, I've bought Shamim Sarif's The World Unseen. Her lyrical prose will make you want to read everything she has written and hope that she is working on more! :)
Profile Image for Pamela J..
Author 1 book1 follower
September 28, 2011
This is a truly enjoyable book that exceeds the expectations of lesbian romance and provides interesting and complex political, cultural and religious settings.
I Can't Think Straight is really two stories; that of Christian Palestinian Tala and that of Muslim Indian Leyla. The two women meet coincidentally and their off and on encounters keep tension alive while growing a meaningful connection and mutual affinity.
The L word . . .
If you're looking for smut, this ain't it. It's the tale of a more tender and connected love relationship, and while it doesn't always feel 100 per cent real, it is sexy, and it's more solid than sordid.
Profile Image for Kurt.
164 reviews13 followers
April 14, 2018
I've had a copy of this book forever and a friend mentioned the book and I was prodded a little to read it. My fear in the past would be that the book was just like the movie which I had seen a couple of times. The book is just like the movie almost reading like a screenplay. But that is not good or bad for anyone else.

First of all, wow. A lesbian relationship between an Indian Muslim and a Jordanian Christian. Luckily the two women are not that religious. I don't think any of the characters were really as they seemed more worried about appearances and worldly things. The two women come from wealth and distinction, far above the middle class, and I do believe the elite can rewrite the rules. Leila and Tala do not suffer from any privation and are successful in all they attempt to do.

Jordan. I don't know anything about Jordan as it's in the Middle East which, frankly, I have kind of written off. Sorry. So it was kind of interesting to read about these wealthy Jordanians as they discussed Israel and the Palestinian disaster. The thought processes of the husbands of the daughters were also of interest as they schemed for position and rank in the business world as well as within the family. The family had all daughters.

The mothers of the two women in love..... Really irritating. The love.... the opposite of slow burn. But all that said, this book was enjoyable to read and gave me the feeling I need to get out more and witness different cultures.
Profile Image for Nik.
164 reviews6 followers
July 1, 2017
This is a very, very, absolutely ridiculously biased rating. Another reviewer wrote, "But I have to ask myself, when I read queer stories, if I like it because it's a love story between two women or if it's because it's actually a good story." I absolutely liked this because it's a love story between two women. Two brown women. Two brown women played in the film by one of my favourite people-I-don't-actually-know and a friend of a friend. And I absolutely liked this book because I liked the film.

These are all not very good reasons for liking the book. I don't care. It's a simple, sweet love story. It's an entirely relatable coming-out story (albeit a bit on the fluffy side for many of us). I googly-eyes, heart-hands lurve it.
Profile Image for Bel.
738 reviews53 followers
April 29, 2012
Oh dear. We seem to have picked a far from great book for book club this month. It wasn't offensively bad, but the writing was inelegant and the story didn't really seem to have anything to say. The author also commited the cardinal sin of flitting from one character's head to another from one paragraph to the next: possibly my number one peeve in bad writing.

Seemed like it wouldn't make a bad film though, so perhaps it's worth tracking that down.
Profile Image for Ashley.
1,405 reviews19 followers
June 15, 2017
What a waste of potential. I was looking forward to this book, which seemed so well loved and hit so many of my wish list items for lesbian romance (most notably, diversity), but honestly even if I hadn't had high hopes for this book it still would have disappointed.

The writing. My god, the writing. I will give it to Sarif: I had a very well rounded sense of the setting, right down to the minute details of the pattern on the china and the irrelevant backstory of how the main character's chain-smoking mother came into possession of the 24-piece set from her dear frugal lithe auntie who never would have approved of the way beautiful Tala let her slightly-too-small shoe dangle off her immaculately pedicured foot when she crossed her enviable legs shyly. Then Leyla woke dreamily and exited the comfort of her room to quietly tiptoe down the stairs for breakfast, fastidiously avoiding the lone errant squeaking floorboard she had always avoided ever since she was a precocious adorable lean small child of 8 when she learned with eruditic certainty that her mother found the raucous noise irredeemable.

You might think it's a joke, but the book had a ridiculous amount of adjectives and adverbs, and the scene transitions were all like this. New scenes and changes in point of view are not separated by a double space, just a new paragraph. It threw me every single time, and the point of view switches five times in a chapter without notice. Really amateur stuff, like maybe the editor gave up.

The story & main characters. Honestly, what story, what characters. I can't even muster a question mark. The book spent so much time on how overbearing and useless both characters' mothers are, the backstory of one of the sisters who disappears from the narrative about halfway through the book, how kind and progressive the main characters' prospective male partners are, etc, that you barely get to see anything develop between the two leads. The book even ends with a scene of Tala's mom and Hani the ex-partner, and the last line is that Hani smiles. Like, who? Why would I care? Ali, Leyla's ex, of course gets pushed into a sloppy will-they-or-won't-they with Leyla's sister (gross) but then stares longingly at Leyla as he drives away from her and Tala (ALSO GROSS). Can I tell you something about Tala? Um... she's apparently really forthright when you meet her. She... likes Leyla? And what about Leyla? Leyla is an emerging writer, of course, so famous, the best, the most famous, her writing is just taking off and so many people want to meet her. What else, what else... She's really into Tala? And they really like each other because they get along. Boy do they get along those two, yup. And how does their relationship progress from that one time one of them went down on the other at the beginning of their friendship which started maybe a month ago? No development on the main characters whatsoever.

Nitpicking. My main nitpicky issue seems to be one of the most celebrated moments in the story by fans of the book and the movie (which I have not seen): when Reema finally drinks the tea Rani has spat in. This whole spit sub-plot is a story people with servants tell themselves as part of a mythology where they abdicate their role in oppressing and exploiting the poor by pretending the poor have an equal amount of power in their relationship and can actually score daily victories over their oppressors when they don't like them. In reality, Rani is probably paid little, her children will never be able to move up in the world, and if she was caught spitting in her masters' food she would not be able to find similar work in the family's high society circle and her own family would struggle to survive. She is absolutely at their mercy, and her real-life counterparts are not done any favours by this cliché, which just stokes suspicion against the servant class and justifies a lot of abuse from their navel-gazing overlords.

The mom thing. Aren't moms the worst???? The dads in this story are so laid back and have no problem with their daughters' gayness. The moms are backwards as heck! Don't get me wrong--I love that a Muslim man can be shown to be supportive of his gay daughter, and that the two main Middle Eastern men seem to think it's no big deal either. That was good! Good! But both moms being overbearing ignorant old ladies was a bit tired. Everyone in this book seems to be born pro-gay or anti-gay and the anti-gay ones aren't given any room to get over it. Again, it comes down to nothing being properly developed in this trite little tale.

It's possible to be able to stand reading this book, if you don't care at all about form or a well told story (not to judge--many people don't give a lick about style and are happy to go along for a ramble if it's got lesbians in it. I'm glad they have so many options for entertainment in this world while I languish, increasingly bitter, as the world fails to live up to my standards). Maybe a queer Muslim teen will read this and fall in love with it, then learn it's been made into a movie, and then she'll return to the book in her mid-20s and think, "Omg I used to settle for this type of thing. I could totally write something better than this." And she will. That is the substantial power this book has, so I don't want to write it off completely. I'm just impatient for the better stories this thing might inspire.
January 16, 2013
Absolutely loved this book! I had watched the movie before reading it and I greatly appreciated the extra in depth look into the individual characters. This was a nice feel good story about love without all the extra unnecessary drama and over-sexed descriptions that usually go with it! The pages flew by!
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,943 reviews1,555 followers
February 20, 2019
I didn't realize as I read this that it's an older book recently re-released. Which explains some minor dissonance around phones (which are present but in a slightly-odd, late-aughts kind of way).

Anyway, this book suffers a little from its scope as the author takes on many viewpoints and head-hops with abandon. Which makes sense once you read in the afterword that the screenplay was written first and the author is a director? or something? Which isn't to say that it's poorly written, though I had to adjust a bit to the style. I was a little surprised to realize that it's not really a romance so much as a coming-of-age ala coming-out story. Indeed, the romance is given pretty short shrift with the two leads falling in love very quickly in that intense way that comes from youth coupled with the relief of finally finding someone compatible when you thought it was impossible.

Sarif packs a lot into this story, including two mothers who are various shades of horrible, several really nice boys who would be great romantic leads if this weren't a lesbian romance and some fathers who are clearly out of their depths but trying very hard to help and support daughters that they obviously love very much. Add some nuanced discussions of Middle-East politics, a surface treatment of major faith traditions, and a darkly bizarre maid servant and you have a kind of whacky but mostly engaging read that I put down and nearly didn't get back to because it's not really my wheelhouse.

So my personal rating for this is around 3, maybe 3½ stars that I'm going to keep at three because it's not really my thing. The romance is mostly background motivation and that's generally my entrée into a story.

A note about Steamy: There's a single, very brief, explicit sex scene and another that's elided completely. So almost no steam at all, but just barely enough for me to tag it as such. It makes sense that the sex wouldn't be any more important than the romance, though, so that's probably fitting.
33 reviews6 followers
May 22, 2017
This was the first ever lesfic that I read and I got it only because I had watched the movie and absolutely loved it. This book is one for the 're-read many times' pile. If read by itself, you may not understand all the intricacies. But the book beautifully complements the movie and covers certain scenes which were left behind in the movie. Some scenes which were missing in the book could be found in the movie. If I'd been reviewing the two together, I'd give them 15 stars. But separately, this would be a 4-star book. It may take two or three readings to appreciate this book on it's own and to find certain nuances. The romance is well done but what made this book different from most ff romances is the exploration of the cultural aspects of the conflict. It's a topic that is not often discussed by western authors in this genre.
Profile Image for C. Mack.
Author 2 books17 followers
March 28, 2017
I would highly recommend - Addresses some interesting themes of sexuality, religion and culture without getting too deep that it overshadows the overall love story.

I've just completed this as an audio book and I was surprised to find I enjoyed it more than when I read it myself. It was superbly narrated and I thoroughly enjoyed this tge second time round.
Profile Image for Serenity Snow.
Author 57 books50 followers
March 31, 2021
This was okay read. A little slow in parts but enjoyable all the same.
Profile Image for Jess.
962 reviews58 followers
December 13, 2016
I actually did not know this was a book for the longest time. I had only heard of the film, which was directed by the author herself. I'm surprised this book is not more popular on lesbian book lists and recommended reads--it is funny, insightful, and a very classic love story. I'm guessing the movie eclipsed the book's popularity.

I chose to read this book at this time because it was the December pick for the Lesbian Book Club, though there hasn't been too much discussion yet.

It was very nice to read a lesbian romance that doesn't revolve around two white, non-religious women. This book is about modern women who are allowed to be independent and make their own decisions, but they still feel bound to the cultural pressures of their close-knit families. Both characters are London-based, with Tala born from a wealthy Christian-Palestinian family and Leyla from an Jewish-Indian background. There is religious and cultural tension (Israel vs. Palestine disagreements among Tala's father and modern fiance, her mother Reema's observation that Leyla's skin color is the same as their servants'), but it doesn't dominate the romantic narrative. Tala and Leyla disagree and argue about politics and religion, but in the end, their love transcends it, as all love stories should. We do get some of the now-tiresome coming-out/sexual awakening narrative (lots of "silents yearnings," etc.), but it isn't melodramatic. It is just as much a family drama as it is a romance, and it brings about that poignant feeling of being alone in a crowded room--Tala's brother-in-law is the only one besides her little sister who reaches out to her after she comes out, which immediately worries her and makes her think he has ulterior motives. She has a tight family, but not necessarily a loving one, which is heartbreaking.

There are some fantastic running jokes in this book, such as Reema's maid, Rani, spitting into her madam's drinks in an attempt to spite her, but then Reema never gets around to drinking the tainted beverages. It is definitely funny, but it does mean something--when Reema finally gets around to distractedly drinking her maid's spit-ridden tea, she's also finally (and unknowingly) swallowing the bitter pill of her daughter's sexuality that she's been avoiding for so many years. There's also some great lesbian humor (Leyla's sister to her ex-fiance on Leyla's coming-out: "Listen, did you ever see the TV show, 'The L Word'?" "No, but did you ever consider not speaking in riddles?").

I'm fond of Reema's characterization, but all characters are rich and well-written. I enjoy Lamia as well, Tala's younger sister who sees her own dull, traditional marriage and adherence to social mores as a victory against her confused older sister and rebellious older sister. She may be secure and married, but she's struggling just as much as Tala--she's training herself to feel and think a certain way, too. The character descriptions are brief and telling enough to come right from Jane Austen ("it was only when [Reema] began talking at length that most people realized her limitation," "'Have some papaya,' Reema advised as she lit a cigarette, 'it's anti-cancer.'").

Leyla is a treat for any writer--her struggle to maintain a balance between reality and her preferred fiction is completely understandable. Why should she not prefer it? These women are struggling with not only their sexualities but with all the confusions involved in maintaining a rich inner life against the traditional desires of family.

The only thing I found lacking in this lovely novel is the actual romance. I believe it, and I love both the characters, but their romantic encounters dulled in comparison to the excellent side characters and singular conflicts of Tala and Leyla.

I'm a fan of Sarif's writing, and I will definitely seek out her other works as well as the film adaptations of her books. I hope we see much more of her in the future of lesbian lit.
Profile Image for Angie.
408 reviews21 followers
April 3, 2017
This book was so problematic for me for so many reasons, mostly to do with the writing.

First, there's a bit of Instalove happening between Tala and Leyla, so much so that I'm supposed to believe that a) they fall in love as quickly as they do and that b) they're each other's soulmates. It's not that I found them unlikeable; it's just that I found them to be boring. So I'm a bit at a loss to understand why they clicked so instantly with the each other. Tala is more problematic than Leyla, but she's supposed to be. But I wasn't invested in them as characters and I was less invested in their love story. I was actually rooting for Leyla and Jennifer at one point.

Second, the points of view changed from paragraph to paragraph and spanned multiple characters and time jumps and geographical locations without warning or a way to signify the change. It wasn't hard to follow, but it was a major distraction.

Third, there's so much potential for interesting discussions: Palestine/Israel, Christianity/Islam, etc, and how those topics effect the LGBTQ elephant in the room. And, yes, those subjects are discussed, but not in any meaningful way. At least I felt they should have featured more.

It just fell flat in virtually every possible way. I read it. I mostly enjoyed it. But I have to ask myself, when I read queer stories, if I like it because it's a love story between two women or if it's because it's actually a good story. If the former, I think that's okay. These stories still need to be told and written and published and read. Hopefully we'll have an abundance of good/bad narratives to choose from in the future. But I'm not there anymore. I want well written stories in traditionally published spaces. I don't want to only find good sapphic stories in fan fiction.

There were a few highlights for me: Yasmin, Leyla's sister provided support and hilarity; Ali and Hani seemed like a standup guys and good friends; Rani, Tala's mother's maid, was my favorite character, but I don't want to spoil why.
Profile Image for Eve.
223 reviews12 followers
February 18, 2019
4.5 stars

This was such a fluffy and pleasant read, with some unexpected depth at times! I loved most of the characters and I especially enjoyed Tala, as well as felt sorry for her. I didn't feel that Leyla was as developed, but I still liked her! Their sisters Zina and Yasmin were super enjoyable as well (Lamia...well, I feel sad for her but she also frustrated me a lot). I really liked that we got to know their families, because it added depth to the story. I also liked how the book had some discussions about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and religion, but they did not overpower the story. I do wish we'd gotten more on the religion aspect wrt Tala and Leyla, as they don't discuss it again after their first meeting.

Overall, very enjoyable, quick read!

There were also some amusing lines in the book that I appreciated. I'll put them under a cut, and unfortunately I don't have page numbers because I read it on Hoopla which SUCKS:

Profile Image for Ashley Reid.
152 reviews114 followers
March 9, 2016
I was really trying to like this because so many people recommended it to me. Unfortunately it lost my interest in the first chapter and didn't get it back throughout the book.
Profile Image for Nico.
529 reviews66 followers
July 27, 2014
The movie was AMAZING so can't wait to read the book :3 It's weird, I think this is the first time I've done it vise versa... I nearly always read the book before watching the movie because Hollywood tends to ruin everything. I guess that's just one of the downfalls of a book not being the library and being very, very, VERY cheap. I dislike spending money...


You know, I *used to* hate reading books that have been made into movies, or movies that are made into books. But I'm trying to think of any I've actually both read and watched and not felt pulled to like one or the other more or less. The only one that can be put on this list for me would be I Can't Think Straight. I read the whole book knowing what was going to happen, which is very unusual for me, and on the rare occasion that it does happen, I usually just end up getting pissed off at things that weren't put into the movie, or things that were changed blah blah blah. But this one was so perfect for one simple reason.

The author was the director.

It also helps that the executive producer was said director's wife.

Therefore, everything flowed seamlessly. A lot of the dialogue was literally copy pasted from the book, which suited me perfectly fine. This is one of those books where I can set up the movie and go through them both at the same time. It's really quite brilliant.

I finished this book and just started grinning because it was just SO PERFECT. This was for a few reasons. One, I paid for the book, which I do not do often. I would've been very put out if after all of what I had to go through (ORDERING IT FROM ANOTHER PROVINCE) it bombed. Secondly, this movie has been the only lesbian film I've watched and absolutely ADORED, so it was important to me that I loved its inspiration. Third, I already know Shamim Sarif's personal story about finding her life, children, and freedom. I just respect her and love her for that so much, and I wanted to love her writing too (which I obviously do).

This just meant so much to me for no other reason than that Shamim Sharif took the classic love story with those two characters in love with everything going against them - star crossed lovers - and she adds all these amazing new twists and turns and spirals to the story that lead into caverns and gardens that you find yourself longing to be lost in.

I do not apologize for that unexpected attempt at poetry. It was a good lead in to this thingy right here.

The last thing I have to mention is that poem. THAT POEM. UGH. I really want to find somewhere on my wall where I can paste it. I'm serious. Here it is:

Every night I empty my heart, but by morning it's full again.
Slow droplets of you seep in through the night's fallen caress.
At dawn, I overflow with thoughts of us,
An aching pleasure that gives me no respite.
Love cannot be contained, the neat package of desire
Splits asunder, spilling crimson through my days.
Long languishing days that are now bruised tender with yearning,
Spent searching for a fingerprint, a scent, a breath you left behind.

Now tell me that doesn't give you shivers.
488 reviews1 follower
July 31, 2009
I must confess, I watched the movie before I read this book.

Shamim Sarif tells the story of two women fighting for independence within their families and struggling to determine their own identities. Tala is the head-strong, Palestinian, Christian, who lives in Amman, Jordan with her wealthy family. Leyla is the Muslim, Indian, who lives in the London suburbs with her family. The two met and must determine what love is worth.

The characters, both main and supporting, are well developed in this novel. S. Sarif provides the understanding of two dynamic families in a realistic coming-out story. The reader develops a close bond with them as they move through this difficult situation. As I read this story, I found myself laughing out loud at the one-liners from Yasmin, Leyla's sister and envisioning the development of the characters. This is a wonderful story, especially given the situation of the characters.
Profile Image for Shayne.
57 reviews5 followers
July 21, 2015
After watching this movie a good 50 times, I knew the book would be a must read. Although I undoubtedly loved the movie, I felt as if something were missing & I had multiple questions. Just as I expected, the book provided more insight on the characters & my questions were answered. Of course there are some slight differences between the movie & the book, but overall, I was enamored with the book. This was one of those hard to put down books & although I had an inkling that I'd enjoy the book because I enjoyed the movie, I didn't know that I would enjoy the book as much as I truly did. Two thumbs up to Shamim Sarif for this novel.
Profile Image for Grace Leigh.
24 reviews6 followers
April 19, 2012
Delightful to read! The regular doses of wit and humor did a wonderful job of lightening up the more serious themes of the book (i.e. coming out to your parents, discovering your true self and what makes you happy, etc.). This was a pure joy to read and wickedly funny! Shamim Sarif is an excellent author and does a wonderful job of balancing the story with lighthearted humor and just the right amount of seriousness and all the emotional nuances and feelings we experience when growing up and falling in love. Beautifully and delicately written (and very moving too)! :)
Profile Image for Carla.
13 reviews
March 17, 2014
It was the first lesbian book and movie I read and saw. :) Since then I couldn't think straight anymore. :P
They both mean a lot to me.
They helped me a lot with dealing with me sexuality, coming out and think about other cultures. That story really changed my life, and Shamim's sense of humor is amazing. I remember I read all "I Can't Think Straight" on a flight and I was trying very hard not to laugh loud because it was in the middle of the night and I was the only one awake. It always put a smile on my face when I remember it.
Profile Image for Charlie.
273 reviews12 followers
February 18, 2012
Almost word for word the movie, yet had some different or longer scenes. Both are very good. It was interesting to see the minor differences between book and film, as some worked better than their counterparts. Both are just different enough that I honestly couldn't say I prefer one over the other, but rather I like them equally well.
Profile Image for Ulla.
1,016 reviews3 followers
July 17, 2011
Loved this story, even more than the film! It's funny, poetical, poignant and very enlightening about cultures I know nothing about. Time to watch the film again!
Profile Image for Bona Caballero.
1,189 reviews46 followers
July 5, 2022
Creo que este es el romance de chicas que más me gusto. Tala, palestina y cristiana, reside en Londres pero va a ir a Jordania a casarse. Es su enésimo compromiso. Esta vez da con un tipo fantástico, Hani, el yerno ideal (no, de verdad, te enamoras de él). Cuando Tala conoce a Leyla, chica británica musulmana de origen indio, chocan. Sí, así empiezan, pero acabarán enamoradas. Para lograr su final feliz, ambas tendrán que aceptarse tal cual son, salir del armario, a pesar de que sus entornos, por costumbres e ideas religiosas, pueden ponérselo difícil. Las dos resultan personajes muy interesantes, de los que vas conociendo sus dudas, aspiraciones y sentimientos de una manera muy inmediata. Los personajes secundarios son inolvidables. También hace especial este libro la ambientación. Entras en las vidas de gentes que te son muy ajenas. ¿Y qué hay de lo mío, de la tensión erótico-amorosa? Pues cumple.
Crítica más amplia, en mi blog.
Profile Image for m.
24 reviews
January 13, 2023
3.8/5 i wanted it to be longer!!!
love the movie and the book is practically the same but books include different perspectives & inner turmoil that a movie just can't provide !
Profile Image for T.B. Markinson.
Author 57 books810 followers
March 26, 2014
Shamim Sarif’s novel, I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT, focuses on several issues that are close to my heart: love, friendship, and families. Many of us can relate to these topics on some level, even if the main characters come from different backgrounds.

Tala is a Palestinian who lives in London. In the opening pages, she’s preparing for her engagement party. This isn’t the first time she’s been engaged and Tala’s mother and sister fear that she might blow this opportunity again. Tala loves the man she’s engaged to, but feels like something is missing.

Leyla, a British Indian woman, is also involved in a relationship with a man. Again, she likes him, but doesn’t feel the spark.

When Tala and Leyla meet there’s an attraction, but neither can put their finger on it right away.
This is a sweet romance between two women torn between their feelings and family obligations. While their mothers love them, at least I think they do, they also have traditional values. For them, getting married to a man is a fact of life. Both of the mothers care a lot about their traditional values and what others will think. And they want their daughters taken care of. They worry like most mothers.

The daughters are free-spirited. They just have to realize it. And act on it. It’s one thing to admit to yourself the truth. It’s a whole new ballgame to proclaim it to the world.

This novel takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster. There’s happiness, love, pain, and loss. What shines through is the beauty of relationships, whether they are romantic, family, or friendly.
Profile Image for Jamie (TheRebelliousReader).
3,140 reviews31 followers
February 26, 2023
Read: November 2021
Original Rating: ★★★
Re-Read: October 24, 2022
Rating after re-read: ★★★★ 

Review after re-reading:
4 stars. Completely disregard my original review. I was being completely biased against this book because of my love of the film which was silly because the film is a very faithful adaptation. Obviously, since Sarif herself directed the film. I do still think that the chemistry of the lead actresses add so much more to the story but I definitely enjoyed and appreciated this book a lot more the second time around. Tala and Leyla’s romance is so swoon worthy. I really like their characters and their journey. This is a really good coming out story with a huge emphasis on the family aspects and a wonderful love story. I’m off to go watch the film now just because.

Original review:
3 stars. I’d rather just watch the film honestly. I love that movie and it is definitely a very faithful adaptation. The book isn’t bad in the slightest but there is something about the writing that left me feeling disconnected from the story. Leyla and Tala are lovely characters and I do really like their relationship and the romance and all of the self discovery but I wasn’t crazy about the writing style. I’d still recommend it and the film though.
Profile Image for Jenn..
15 reviews3 followers
May 24, 2009
I usually read a book first before I see the movie. In this case I did not, because I didn't know there was a book before I saw the film. This kinda ruined my reading experience. But oh well, 'I can't think straight' was still a nice read. One thing though: not all lesbians watch 'The L Word' and listen to k.d. lang and not everyone who watches 'The L word' and listens to k.d. lang is a lesbian ;)
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