Finding Mr Perfectly Fine is a laugh-out-loud funny rom-com of a book where a 29-year-old British Bengali girl from North London has a deadline to find “the one” or face her mummy’s wrath, in the shape of a ‘fresh from the desh’ prospective from ‘back-home’. Though it is a light-hearted read, it has unexpected dark turns that will have you crying and then screaming in frustration, whilst simultaneously rooting for protagonist Zara!
It will definitely give prospective marriage candidates food for thought, thinking about their own personal boundaries and how one can reconcile matters of the heart alongside the practicalities of life. For me, it brought up questions about whether finding a spouse is really the be-all and end-all? Why can’t society and culture allow you to be simply as you are?
This book was my companion whilst I was in hospital with a serious virus that infected my knee. As I went through a roller-coaster of emotions, Tasneem asked me, ‘What can I do? How can I help you?’ The hours dragged on in the hospital and I wished out loud, if only her book was published. She then generously sent me a digital copy of her book with her final edit notes on it, weeks before release! Boy, was I excited! What a privilege!
Though a part of me yearned to hold a hard copy, to feel the paper and enjoy that new-book smell, I was just grateful to simply be able to read it (in any format) amidst the pain; it was a great distraction. I finished the book in just over two days, hindered mostly by the invasive intravenous intrusions. Bear in mind, those who know me know I take months to finish a book! I haven’t read this fast since my pre-marital years and it certainly took me back! As I read the book, I shared my insights, my predictions, frustrations and raucous laughter with Tasneem on watsapp. When I finished the book though, my final words to her were: “This had better not be the final ending! I need more!”
As a British Bengali myself and living in North London, having also gone through the myriad of candidates imposed on me by my elders (see episode 2 to hear how both Tasneem and I actually met our other halves as well as our bonus track that details some funny encounters on the podcast that both Tas and I host), I completely felt at home at the familiarity of Zara’s mum and grandmother. The sibling relationship was also very relatable and entertaining. Zara’s quest to find Mr Perfectly Fine was not easy and having a time-pressure on top meant that she had to move fast and try out all ‘desperate’ measures.
It does bring up the question though, is being married to anybody better than being single and happy?
How does the latter sit in today’s culture and society? Whilst it’s more common now to remain single or marry much later, first-generation parents are often conflicted and find this hard to accept.
Zara is a stylish, modern NON-HIJABI girl (feel like I need to emphasise this as I kept imagining it was Tas and was gasping in shock at some of Zara’s antics only to be vehemently reminded, Zara is NOT Tasneem). Zara is a spiritual person in her own right; she chooses not to wear hijab though she tries to practice – much like many of our young British adults today. Although she is a bold character, she has an unspoken vulnerability about her.
Tasneem struck the right balance in developing this character to show that non-hijabis are not all ‘loose’ or without strong morals. Zara is a highly spiritual individual and practices many aspects of Islam in a positive way, though she recognises her own weaknesses and knows what is and isn’t permissible in Islam.
I really appreciated that the book was authentic to our culture and did not try to portray Muslims as being ‘perfect’ in our deen but at the same time did not try to whitewash our religion to suit the non-Muslim narratives.
As a book of fiction, it reflects the society we live in, and I would even go as far as to say, it is also conservative at times. I only have to speak to young adults for five minutes to hear how crazily unislamic Uni and work life is for many Muslims, hijabi’s or not. It is a hard thing to balance and I applaud Tasneem for giving it a good go!
I believe Tasneem did an excellent job explaining the differences between cultural norms within Sylheti Bangladeshi communities and Islam; this was consistent throughout the book. At one point, the hijab was depicted as subduing one of the character’s beauty, this being very common in our culture where hijab is associated with being unattractive, unappealing or something that old people wear. I have witnessed this attitude first-hand unfortunately, and true of cultural attitudes in both Bangladesh and the UK. As a Muslim hijab-wearer, I can understand how this may be misconstrued, that it feeds into the mainstream narrative that the hijab is ‘ugly’. However, you have to read this in context as it is reflective of non-mainstream Bengali attitudes too, not to mention that in Islam, hijab is meant to ‘hide’ your beauty, not display it.
Being Bengali, I appreciated all the nuances of our culture, the humour, the quick wit. Tasneem ensures that the book was accessible to non Bengalis and non Muslims by translating or explaining these connections without sounding ‘preachy’. Also, as an honorary North Londoner, I absolutely LOVED reading about my old haunts, recognising many of the landmarks Tasneem writes about; the tube journeys, the vibe. It was a nice change from the typical depictions found in books – Bengalis from Brick Lane or other parts of East-London.
Zara’s mother had me choking with laughter where I no doubt startled the elderly on the orthopedic ward that I was in. In the middle of the night, I found myself snorting with stifled laughter. Zara’s mum is sharp, unwittingly hilarious with her sarcasm and a dry sense of humour. She knows exactly how to have the last word, seamlessly leading Zara into a dance with words. The lovely nani (grandma) is everyone’s nani; we can all relate to this supportive figure who agrees with her daughter like an echo whilst feeling every emotion of her grandchildren, even when it is at discord with her own ideals of marriage and expectations.
This book has all the ingredients that one needs to make it relatable and entertaining, surprising readers with unexpected twists and revelations with an unpredictable ending.
I have so much to say about Zara’s love interests and other twists and turns in the book but I really don’t want to give anything more away at this early stage where people are still reading it. I found myself getting frustrated with Zara sometimes as I kept willing her to…
…I will end this here. I’m afraid you will need to read the book to find out more!
Suffice it to say, soon enough you will become Zara’s most intimate friend! Her family will become yours and by the end of it, you will spend the week reflecting on her life and oddly missing her in yours.
Bring on the sequel I say! It can’t come soon enough!
This book makes a great buy for gifts. I literally bought twelve copies to give away as birthday and Eid gifts! Get your copy from here.
By Nafisa RahimiCo-Founder of Muslim Mamas, Super Smart Learners English (a unique educational programme) and an award-winning 'Best Podcast 2020' - Not Another Mum Pod. The audio Ramadan diaries are now a Permanent Collectionof the Museum of London. Nafisa has recently been named in Techmae's ‘Woman Spotlight’.Nafisa's pods regularly make waves, frequently ranking in Apple Podcast charts worldwide (no.12 in Sweden and 13 in UK ). Nafisa faces difficult topics head-on in an attempt to grab the mic, and address Muslim-related issues with authentic Muslim voices. Nafisa lives in London with her four children and husband. She enjoys writing, eating out, travelling and hanging out with 'Friends'! Read all about it here:https://linktr.ee/Nafisa.Rahimi