A Match Made in Heaven
This is a book of short stories which are drawn together by the fact that they are all by Muslim women, and all take as their subject “Love and Desire”. Not that, as the Introduction is at pains to point out, they are similar beyond that theme. The apparent expectation is that Muslim are “both conservative and submissive”, but these sixteen stories do not demonstrate that to be the case; indeed they are sufficiently diverse to suggest that all they all feature relationships in a vast range.
There are stories which show enormous respect for a relationship by the rules, even if not exactly as expected by organising mothers. There are also those that show a strong resistance to what is enforceable under the strict rules of the faith, as one man proposes to take a second wife. The women who are at the centre of these stories sometimes express themselves through the narrative, whereas in at least one both partners’ views are fully explored. These stories are limited only by imagination, but are mostly grounded in experience. Some of the authors are well known, others produced their stories from a workshop setting. Some use pseudonyms for various reasons, as honesty and down to earth truths even in fiction can be too revealing. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special book.
The pressure on young women and men to marry can lead to difficult relationships, which is a theme explored in more than one story. Women in Britain also experience the pressures of education and career being in conflict with traditional expectations of marriage and house work, and this is reflected in the stories. Some women’s stories reflect betrayal of different types, whereas others have quite a twist with responsibility not lying where it first seemed.
This is not a miserable collection of stories throughout; there are flashes of humour, determination and strength. Obviously some stories will appeal more to some readers than others, which reflects the variety and mixture of writing styles. It is difficult to work out which is the ultimate favourite without revealing the twists in many of the tales, the unexpected and unpredictable endings, the satisfactory resolutions and the open endings which encourage further speculation on the part of the reader.
This is essentially a varied collection of stories which show the diversity of views they reflect from the perspective of Muslim women. There is humour in a story involving a bathroom window, there is deep and unresolvable sorrow in a story set amongst the Syrian war. There are happy marriages, relationships, there are those who struggle to rise above an incident or fact, while others show true survival. The editors have done an amazing job in bringing together words, stories and contributions that really push the boundaries of the expected. There is no one presumption of what women can produce here, as the description states “so absolutely nothing can be taken for granted”. This is a book which can be enjoyed on many levels, by people who may not have much knowledge or understanding of the Muslim faith, and by those for whom it is a life long commitment. I found much to enjoy in this book, being able to explore its diversity in the contributions it contains, and would definitely recommend it.