Friday, June 19, 2015


Genre: Literary fiction
Word count: 100,000


Samira Ali’s love life was mapped at birth: Finish graduate school, let her parents find her the perfect Pakistani man, and learn to love him while rearing a houseful of beautiful Muslim babies.

American-born Samira never expected to find true love that way, but neither did she expect to careen so far into forbidden territory. Less than halfway through her doctorate program, she’s not merely embroiled in a clandestine love affair with wildlife photographer Gary Rosenthal; she’s internalized the cadence of his voice when he lights his Hanukkah candles. But before she can admit that she’s fallen irrevocably in love, Samira learns that her father is dying. Rather than destroy his hope that she’ll find the perfect Muslim man, Samira leaves Gary--only to discover that she’s pregnant.

Unable to think straight in the days following her father’s funeral, Samira flies to Pakistan on the pretense of helping her grandfather. She tells herself that she’ll have a plan by the time she returns to her small Florida hometown, but being in Lahore complicates everything. As Samira struggles to conceal her pregnancy from a gaggle of nosy aunties, she learns that she’s not the only Ali woman who has had to choose between love and the culture and faith that define her. Samira’s mother is hiding a past that could make the blended family Samira dreams of possible (if Gary will take her back) or force Samira to choose between the one parent she has left and the love of her life.

First page:

Samira swung her leg over her bicycle seat and leaned into the pedals. In seconds, the rusty green dumpsters and dull gray gravel of the alley were behind her, and she was jumping the curb at Carolina Street. She crouched low over her handlebars as she rode deliberately through the shadows that draped her hometown, softening everything she passed: the park where she had broken her arm when she was six, her high school home economics teacher’s house, the azalea-ringed yards of two aunties, the police chief’s stucco rambler.

She pedaled fast, her legs moving like pistons as she headed west, away from the beach, away from her childhood home, away from her still-sleeping mother, mentally mapping the shortest route to the next town. At her fastest pace, it would still take more than a half hour each way.

She needed a car.

“Don’t be stupid, Sam,” she said, her voice lost beneath the whir of her bike.

No one drove through Carlysle, Florida, at four thirty in the morning.

If she were driving, the chief would have gotten in his cruiser and followed her to make sure she was all right. With Samira’s luck, he’d have had a half dozen of the aunties trailing him, or--at the very least--reaching for the telephone.

Samira could almost hear the aunties’ voices as one, husky with concern, sleep, and unflinching Pakistani accents:

“Nasreen-behen, so sorry to call at this hour, but everything is okay, nehi? Samira just drove by...”