Status: Finished Reading (19 May 2019)
Edition: Amazon Kindle
Oh my god! Those were the exact words that echoed in my head when I put down this book. I was so overwhelmed and flooded with emotion that I sat down to write this book review right away – because I need the world to read this book.
Love From A to Z is the story of Adam and Zayneb, who lead extremely different lives but happen to run into each other at an airport while waiting to board the same plane to Doha. What they don’t know yet is that they are about to set on more than just a literal journey – they’re about to embark on a journey of self discovery, endurance, frustration, sadness, joy, love, and all the marvels and oddities that life has to offer.
Contemporary books and stories are usually a hit-or-miss for me, and this one was an easy, 100% blockbuster hit (I would ask you to excuse my Bollywood-style exaggeration on describing this book’s success in my eyes,. But it got Aap Jaisa Koi stuck in my head for a long time, and I am allowed).
One of the main reasons this book was a hit for me is how much I could connect with both Adam and Zayneb’s characters – which is interesting given how different they can be sometimes. There were qualities in both of them that resonated deeply with me, and as a result, it was so easy to love their characters and root for their happiness and wellbeing. There wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t completely in awe of how they dealt with everything they went through, not a moment when I didn’t want to protect them and make things easier for them. It was almost a parental protectiveness in knowing I have to let them figure it all out on their own.
I know I mention Aap Jaisa Koi before, and even the book translated the first line of the song, which says “if someone like you came into my life”. This was such an accurate description of how Zayneb and Adam run into each other. But what makes it even more special is the next line (to baat ban jaye), because them becoming a part of each others’ lives changed it in so many spectacular ways (I can’t think of any accurate way to translate that line other than, “then everything is great/perfect”). The way in which they balance each other out is something they both needed – not as a crutch, but as a support system that they hadn’t even realised they could benefit from. Funnily enough, the song is from a movie called Qurbani (“sacrifice”) and I feel like personal sacrifices are something both Adam and Zayneb had made when they first meet each other.
I think Adam and Zayneb are tenacious and stubborn in their own ways – one in his willingness to protect his loved ones and ease their pain, to see the good in everything; and one in her resolute belief to never sit idle while injustice and pain happens in the world and to the community around her. Sometimes this stubbornness causes them problems, sometimes it leads to pain, sometimes it leads to success – and sometimes it is not actually stubbornness at all but is simply labeled such by the people who don’t see things from their perspective.
We get to see both the characters face the different consequences of their actions – some pleasant, some not so much – and how they learn and grow from each of their experiences. I love how this is something they do as individuals, as peers, as family, and with each other, because all of those aspects are important.
What really created a rounded narrative for me were the cast of side characters – their friend circle in Doha and back home, their family members, Zayneb’s schoolmates, the lesser privileged members of their community, and the omnipresent narrator/journal editor, too. It allowed us to step away from their personal, biased points-of-view and see how they fit into the larger story and into the connected lives of those around them.
Overall, what a fantastic book. It had me laughing, it had me tearing up, it had me dancing, it had me laying down to clutch my plushie close for comfort. But most of all it had me content. I am a very easily angered person and trying to turn this emotion into something fruitful, yet struggling to clutch at patience and serenity – a combination of Adam and Zayneb. It allowed to me to see the world a little differently than it was before I picked up this book. I haven’t read S.K. Ali’s other work, but I am already on my way to find a copy of it.
Love From A to Z is a romance contemporary story that you do not want to miss. Written in fantastic and fun prose, it takes an optimistic, hopeful love story and brings it into the real world of real problems, and lets two slightly lost souls stumble onto a path of discovering peace, themselves, and each other. Read it now!
Trigger Warnings: The book deals with familial death, war, chronic and terminal illness, and Islamophobia. All are events that take place in close proximity and/or to the POV characters. There is also discussion of sexual assault in one scene in relation to a school project centred on the topic.