When it comes to reading needs, sometimes you’re looking for a book with a bit of everything – and if that’s the case, The Marvelous Mirza Girls, by Sheba Karim, is sure to delight. With a story as colorful as its cover, several hundred pages can easily fly by in a single sitting.
Aspiring writer and fresh high school graduate Noreen, still struggling with the loss of her beloved aunt a year later, decides to take a gap year and follow her mother, Ruby, from their home in America to New Delhi. While learning to adjust to life in a culture that is at once familiar and very foreign, Noreen has adventures that would be the envy of any travel blogger – and meets an alluring new love interest along the way. But Noreen’s story is no perfect fairy tale. Besides experiencing a scandal that sees the boundaries of love tested, Noreen must wrestle with the complexity of life in this new city: family, belonging, tradition versus modernity, toxic masculinity, and poverty versus privilege.
Karim is a talented writer, her wit shining through on every page. I lost count of how many times I stopped to admire the timing of an unexpectedly poignant line or a quirky bit of humor. Equally impressive is her ability to make the setting real; I’ll admit to salivating over her depictions of the delicious cuisine (the risk of craving biryani and pakoras is very real).
I do wish there had been a little more in terms of Noreen’s overall character arc, although this is a highly subjective and minor complaint. Her relationship with her mother is a wonderful highlight and a joy to read, but I felt that about halfway through the story, her character development shifted too much to revolve around her romance. Considering the richness of the world and the complex topics the story brings in – which it doesn’t always explore to a satisfying extent – the shift in focus felt a little shallow. I would have liked to feel as much of an inner journey for Noreen as the outer one she experienced. But to be fair, I’m also not much of a romance fan, and seeing as I didn’t actually mind the romance too much here, readers who enjoy romantic storylines will probably not see the focus on it as an issue.
While The Marvelous Mirza Girls may be a coming-of-age story, it’s also probably not for younger readers. That said, it’s highly worth the read, so I’d recommend moving it to a sooner-rather-than-later position on your reading list! It’s perfect for anyone still pining for an amazing travel experience – whether or not you’re still in quarantine.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Quill Tree Books, for review.