SOFIA KHAN IS NOT OBLIGED
By: Ayisha Malik
Three-word-review: “Hilarious, real, cute”
Synopsis: ‘Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’ Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. ‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?
I absolutely loved this book! I can honestly say that I’ve never related so much with a character like Sofia (though I think I’ve said that before). Being Pakistani, it was no wonder I would feel such a deep connection with this, but also since I’ve gone through a few things that Sofia has gone through, it just made reading this book a whole different experience! I will say that because some of the things I related to hit me on a personal level, it was a bit depressing to read at times, or reminded me of things that I’ve been trying to forget, so that was a bit not-so-fun, but besides that, I overall really enjoyed everything.
While Sofia’s character goes through a few things I’ve gone through, her personality is so different from mine. I did really enjoy reading from her perspective and seeing how she dealt with different situations (usually loudly, and occasionally punching someone) and struggled with her problems. She was fun to read about and made me wish I had more guts to say what I want to say.
Let’s talk about the guys, since I know that’s why everyone is reading this…
Beginning with Imran. I wasn’t sure how much we were going to see of him at first, but when he showed up a little over half way through the book, I immediately didn’t like his “I sacrificed living with my parents, so please do what I want” attitude. The whole situation just felt wrong, but I honestly felt for Sofia so much because she did exactly something I would have done. I know many people can relate to this – being told by your parents that they’re getting old and they want to see you “settled” and that they want grandkids. It makes you feel guilty for waiting or saying “no”. It makes you feel like a disappointment. I know for a fact that if I were in Sofia’s position, I would have done the same thing and agreed to marry Imran, even though I didn’t really love him. But unlike Sofia, who ended things off eventually, it scares me to think that I probably wouldn’t, just to please my family. This sounds really dark ahah…but things like this made the book somewhat depressing for me to read, but I also think it was super important to read about. Hopefully it gives me the courage to do what Sofia did if that time ever comes.
Another thing I found difficult to read about was Maria’s relationship with her in-laws. Stuff like that terrifies the crap out of me, and makes me more adamant to never want to live with my own in-laws. While I know that not all in-laws are like this, the fact that that is a possibility terrifies me. When Maria says that Tariq supports his parents with everything and never takes her side, it made my heart ache cause it’s just awful. Though they did reconcile and things seemed to be going better for them, I have no doubt that it is something that will be brought up over and over again and will probably create problems for a while.
Now onto Naim. I really liked him in the beginning. He was funny and charming and interesting, but he started to really annoy me, until it got to the point where I hated him. I could totally tell that Sofia had feelings for him and I started to imagine if marriage was even possible and I realized right away that it wouldn’t work. This was before he started doing horrible, annoying stuff…I totally got what Sofia saw in him, but I was glad she noticed that they weren’t compatible. But seeing Naim just playing her along like she isn’t a person who has feelings was so frustrating and made me so angry! I’m glad she just yelled at him and broke things off. I have a feeling he’s going to make an appearance in the second book, but I honestly hate his guts.
Before I talk about Conall, I wanted to talk about Sofia’s book. I loved the idea for it because it’s something so applicable to my own life. I will admit that some of Sofia’s experiences (and her friends) were things I’d never faced and probably never will. I don’t think I’d ever go and meet up for coffee with someone I matched with on Shaadi.com. And going to matchmaking events??? HELL NO. But it was interesting to read about. I really didn’t like Brammers though – “it doesn’t have enough sex” like WHAT NO NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS SEX. I’m glad Sofia put her foot down and decided to write what she wanted.
Now…let’s talk about Conall. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen between him and Sofia at first. He just seemed like a random stranger from next-door, but when they started talking more and he offered her the use of his house to write her book, I was a little intrigued. Though I’ll admit, the first thing I thought was how were Sofia’s parents okay with her working at a random guy’s house??? Personally, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable doing that, but I keep thinking about the t-shirt-hijab scene and laughing, so it was totally worth it! Since so much was going on with Naim and Imran and Sofia’s book, I didn’t think too much of Conall at first. But he’s honestly amazing! I loved how quiet and observing he was, and how he actually listens to Sofia. And he was always there for her, whereas Naim was busy clubbing and hooking up with his ex (I really do hate him). I fell more and more in love with Conall and I could totally tell Sofia was too! When Conall went to the Palestinian protest, and then announced he was going to Afghanistan for a project, I pretty much guessed he was going to convert and come back, and he and Sofia would get married and ride off into the sunset 🙂
The thing was, when it happened, I was kind of disappointed and sad. It was a great ending, and I really shipped Sofia and Conall together, but it was also a bit depressing. The entire book made it seem like all the other brown guys are just terrible and that a white guy converting to Islam was the better option. Now before people get upset at me…there’s obviously a huge cultural difference between the upbringing of a brown guy and white guy, so obviously some white guys may have beliefs and ideologies that are different and maybe more modern and feminist than brown guys. Obviously I’m not generalizing, but this book made it seem like brown guys are the “not-so-great” option cause they have family issues (HITW, in-laws), or they’re thoughtless and not understanding. I almost wish the book had ended with Sofia finding a nice brown guy, who had all the good qualities a person should have. I think it would have left the book on a more hopeful note for the rest of us who plan to get married one day. Despite that, like I said, I ship Sofia and Conall together. And people do convert all the time, so it isn’t something totally unlikely. I’m excited to see what happens next in their relationship though, cause I’m sure it’s not going to be easy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially about the end! Did you absolutely love it, or are you on the fence like me?
(Also, if you feel like you’ve read this before, I posted this review on Goodreads before on my blog. I know some people probably won’t see my review on Goodreads, so I thought it would be nice to post here!)