This is the story of Mae, youngest of the Amir sisters. She has managed to spread her wings and move to university, but the experiment is not going well. Readers of the other two Amir sisters books will know why – a complicated arrangement of sisters and babies means that her already close family has become a demanding one as well. This book works well as a standalone novel, as I had not read the previous two. Mae’s issues with finding friendship and support at university are a common problem; her family problems are universally recognisable. This contemporary novel is written with affection and compassion, and with great skill. This is a narrative of the small things, the funny things, the completely confusing things in today’s world. This book cleverly focuses on Mae within the context of her family and though her eyes. It is an honest account of being nineteen and trying to emerge from a demanding family. I found it an engaging and honest book, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
As the book opens Mae is at university, struggling to make sense of her course and the other students around her. She feels unable to communicate with them in a lighthearted way, or indeed at all. She decides to go home, despite the fact that her communication with her family has been mainly obsessed with the two babies, Adam and Zoya. Mae is disregarded by all, except when wanted for babysitting and other help. Her beloved parents have changed and ignore her in favour of her brother. Her return to university gets her involved in various problems, and it does not take long for her to reach a crisis point.What happens next is confusing, challenging and a little bewildering, and involves Mae in a lot of family, cultural and other issues.
This book is a clever construct of plot and setting. It shows real insight into family life, where the needs of some are ignored in favour of those that shout the loudest. The challenges involved in looking after small babies, stepchildren and others are clearly shown, as part of the general stresses of family life. Mae’s individual struggles go right to the heart of her identity, as she tries to work out her place at university in all senses, her place in a family which seems to ignore her, and what she truly wants from life. The humour of this book runs throughout, as well as the very real challenges that Mae faces. Apart from the normal problems of growing up in today’s world, Mae has to face the facts of the world outside her family, and it is a struggle. Her problems are well explored and this is not a predictable novel in many ways. I thoroughly enjoyed this insight into a young woman’s life and times, and recommend it to all readers of contemporary fiction who appreciate a lighthearted element to their reading, with a strong narrative flow.