A Rift That Lies Between Us is the debut novel from Nasiha Muna that seeks to explore the relationships that exist within a strictly religious Muslim family and how that affects the children, growing up in a secular, yet predominately Judeo-Christian United States. Farisa is the eldest daughter of two Bangladeshi Muslims who came to America before she was born. Growing up, under the umbrella of her parent’s religion and beliefs she finally finds some freedom when she heads off to University, some six hours from home, to study fine arts. Farisa must balance her parent’s expectations of marrying a “nice” Muslim boy with her own desires to have a career and explore her own potential as a human being. When Farisa is paired with a young, white man, Caiden, for an art project, it soon becomes apparent that there is some electricity between the pair but how can they deal with the differing expectations of each other and of their respective families? So begins an exploration of life and relationships which will encompass a number of years.
As a professional reviewer, I read a lot of books in the course of a year and it takes something special to move me. In A Rift That Lies Between Us, Nasiha Muna has given me that something special. Whether it is because I am also in a cross-cultural relationship or not, the book spoke deeply to my heart and moved me in unexpected ways. I felt the writing was superb, for a debut novel and the author beautifully captured the dilemma faced by many children of strictly religious families, whatever their faith, counterpointed with their desire to break free from the constraints they feel bind them and integrate fully within the society they were either born into or entered at a very young age. The budding relationship between Caiden and Farisa was fraught with difficulty and turmoil, yet you always had that feeling that love would win through in the end. In particular I enjoyed the focus on the role of young women within these families, how they were always made to feel subservient to their brother(s) and that for them, marriage to a good Muslim was presumed to be the ultimate achievement in life but this was never going to be enough for Farisa. For me, the sign of an exceptional book is that I am still thinking about the characters and the situations they faced, several days later. This definitely is the case with this book – this story will stick with me for some time to come. What an excellent read it was and what a talented author this woman is.