Today Sophia Rose has stopped in to share the delightful new RomCom, Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin. With all the food talk, this one will make you hungry!
From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of «You’ve Got Mail,» set in two competing halal restaurants.
Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighborhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.
When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighborhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant–who might not be a complete stranger after all.
As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.
Sophia Rose’s Review
When her life, challenging though it may be, seems to be on track, that’s when it goes topsy-turvy. What can she do, but figure it out and carry on. After the soul-warming delight of her first book, I was tickled to pick up this latest that gives a nod to ‘You’ve Got Mail’ ala Canadian South East Asian Muslim-style.
Hana Khan Carries On is part Women’s Fiction, part RomCom, and was a full, richly-layered story told by and about a young woman who thinks she has a good grasp on her life, as complicated as it is, but discovers life has a whole lot more to throw into her path. Hana is pulled a few different directions. She has her radio career where she is apprenticing right now, but worries about focusing on that while her mom’s restaurant is floundering and her dad’s car crash left him struggling health-wise so she helps take care of his needs. She is kept busy with it all and barely has time for friendship let alone pursuing a romance with the online anonymous ‘Stanley’ who started as her first podcast follower and became something more.
Hana’s life shifts into high gear during the story as she faces personal career decisions, the identity of her online love interest, her family’s restaurant failing and the new competition, hate crime, mysterious relatives, and a family secret. She handles it as best she can, making a few mistakes, but also growing with her experiences that take up the whole book to help her see what is really important, who she wants to be, and who she wants to be with. The ‘You’ve Got Mail’ familiarity is there, but not dominant much of the time. It added a lighter element among some of the tougher issues in Hana’s life.
The story is actually bigger than Hana because it tells the story of the immigrant experience and that of a neighborhood of people that are in Toronto, but could be even my own country. Hana’s neighborhood is diverse and still small business, but they face the challenge of keeping the feel of the neighborhood intact while progress happens as well as face conflict from those who are against a diverse population and resort to more than words- though those are pretty awful.
It was also interesting to see behind the mike at a radio station and Hana’s podcasting. Hana’s storytelling was a highlight as she dug into personal and family for rich, significant tales to share with her listeners.
Like with her first book, Ayesha At Last, Hana Khan Carries On brings the reader into the warm, sometimes hilarious, heart-felt world of family and community with a South East Asian flavor to music, religion, social customs, work, and life in the Golden Crescent. I loved this aspect so much and the characters that the author created who peopled the neighborhood from the aunties to the Iman at the mosque to her friends, the cousin she is convinced is Indian mafia, and a certain frenemy who she can’t hate no matter how hard she tries.
There is a tough-fought romance for Hana, both with her anonymous online friend and the acrimonious real life attraction to the rich guy who opens a restaurant in competition with her mom’s. It was both funny and full of emotion as this all transpired.
All in all, it was a complex, colorful, emotional, and delicious character-driven story that satisfied from cover to cover. For those who enjoy cheering on an Asian heroine in a heartwarming, gently paced life and romance story, I don’t hesitate to recommend this one.
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