Review: The Harem by Safia Fazlul

the haremSource: TSAR Publications – I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation.
Publisher: TSAR Publications
Edition: Ebook, 168 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
Rating: 4/5

Fiction. Asian American Studies. How far would you go to be free?Humorous, though tinged with a sense of the tragic, at times risque, and utterly contemporary, THE HAREM, is a fast-paced novel about young Asian women and their quest for freedom.Farina has only one dream: to be free and move away from Peckville, a Muslim ghetto in a large city. She is eager to escape the clutches of her strict parents who will not let her drink, party or have any kind of contact with males. As soon as she turns eighteen, she sets her dream in motion and gets her own apartment. The only problem is that her minimum-wage job leaves her feeling anything but liberated. How can she resist when her ambitious best friend Sabrina proposes an infallible business idea? How harmful can running as escort agency really be? Will she finally be freed by her increasing wealth and independence, or will she remain enslaved by her increasing guilt?

The Harem takes place in a Muslim ghetto called Peckville where a strong willed young woman named Farina is struggling to get away from her overbearing mother, her religion and her life of poverty. Thanks to her extremely ambitious and money-minded best friend Sabrina they hatch a plan to open an escort agency and pull in all the money they’ve been hoping for. The Harem is a book about women, self discovery, and what it means to have family. I will say that this is definitely for the 18+ crowd as it does have sexual content and some very dark situations that would not be suitable for young teens.

The story is hard hitting and definitely makes an impression. It tackles subjects like the value of womanhood, the value of one’s self, self destruction, and the importance of family. As we move through the story and see Farina begin to change we also begin to see her world in a different light. The things that were shiny and golden opportunities in the beginning begin to fade and trade places with the things she only saw as  a stain. The characters in this are detailed and have a depth that it’s easy to like them…even when you really hate them.

The writing is first person, so it’s very much Farina’s voice. It’s straightforward, blunt and at times even a bit poetic.  Her voice pulls you in and the emotion is high every step of the way. Farina’s journey over the course of the book isn’t an easy one and she definitely doesn’t always make the right decisions, but it was interesting to see her grow as a person and start taking steps to better herself. Sabrina is a girl who practically has trouble written all over her. She’s confident, pretty, and most of all she’s manipulative.  She’s one of those characters that I loved reading about but really didn’t like. She’s a user but I my heart went out to her. Imara is the most innocent of the three girls and probably the one that broke my heart the most by the end. All three of these girls have hit their low at some point, but the one thing that separates them is how they recover from it.

The Harem is a heartfelt, heartbreaking and quick paced story that drew me in without any hesitation. I’m definitely glad that this review request came in because I’m not sure I would have found this gem on my own.

4 stars

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10 Responses to Review: The Harem by Safia Fazlul

  1. Christy @ Love of Books says:

    Ohhh this sounds interesting! Don’t laugh, but my good friend and I have talked about starting an escort service or brothel with men since jr. high. lol – I don’t even know what started it. We still joke about pimping guys out. 😀

  2. I read this book a few months ago and I agree, it is such a well written book that tackles some very intense but important topics. I loved Farina’s voice – it was so strong, and like you said, at times poetic. I’m glad I was asked to review The Harem too, because I likely wouldn’t have found it on my own either.

    Great review!

  3. kimbacaffeinate says:

    This sounds wonderful and I like that it touches on so many issues. Farina sounds strong and I like that it’s told from her pov. Wonderful review Michelle!

  4. hard hitting sounds good to me, thanks for review

  5. Sounds very original and I love the setting. Will add to my to-read list, I think from the way you describe it that I would really enjoy it.

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