Book review: I Can't Think Straight - Shamim Sarif

After 3 failed engagements, Tala has finally found the perfect husband. During preparations for her rapidly approaching wedding, Tala meets Leyla and suddenly starts to doubt her love for her fourth fiancé.

 

I Can’t Think Straight is both a movie and a novel. Set in Jordan and England, the story centres around the lives of two Middle Eastern women trying to do the right thing by their families. In some ways Tala and Leyla's lives seem to overlap; they both come from highly religious and wealthy families, they are both beautiful and well-educated, and they both have a younger and rebellious sister. But Tala is an outgoing and vibrant Catholic from Jordan, while Leyla is shy, Muslim and living in London where most of this story takes place. While British born Leyla has secretly imagined loving and being loved by another woman, Tala cannot. Tala knows that such a relationship is an impossibility in her world, so is ready to walk down the aisle with the man who adores her and has made her mother proud.

 

Despite the cheesy title and inelegant writing, the book is great! The families of both Tala and Leyla make this book shine, and the author manages to convey human relationships, both family and romantic, in a realistic and recognisable way. This isn’t a book where the main characters are tortured by their sexuality only to die in the end. Rather their lives are moving along smoothly, with neither girl fully aware that anything is amiss, until the day they fall in love. From that initial contact, they soon find themselves in a race against time to reconcile their new feelings, against their respective cultures, before Tala gets married. Their families pitch into the drama as families do, some well-meaning, some supportive, and some downright conniving. Ultimately the book has the ending you expect, but it’s well worth a read.