- Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244573-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244575-9 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys M Gr. 10 up
One of Mariam’s friends, Umar, is heading from New Jersey to Louisiana for the Islamic Association of North America convention; another, Ghaz, has been imprisoned in her room after her strict Pakistani-American parents found out about their daughter’s modeling for a sexy ad campaign; Mariam herself wants to make a secret visit to the uncle she’s never met (brother of the father she never knew) in Virginia. The obvious solution is to break Ghaz out and make an epic road trip, so the three college kids head south, on the way exploring unfamiliar parts of America, discussing their moral and theological views, and learning about their families and themselves. There’s a lot of meaty subject matter here, especially about religious and parental expectation (aside from Ghaz’s near-disownment, Umar is gay but he isn’t out; meanwhile, Mariam’s steely mother is admirable but not always forthcoming); the colloquy on the generational differences in following Islam is meaningful and the trio’s experience of anti-Muslim prejudice is sobering. However, the trip itself is mired in tedious minutiae of restaurant and drink orders, and there’s little plot trajectory beyond the journey itself, since episodes, especially Mariam’s meeting with her uncle, and, eventually, her father, are discrete experiences that don’t contribute to any larger emotional momentum. Characterization is scant, with Umar mostly a type and Ghaz unpleasantly self-centered, and the people along the way tend to be broadly drawn (and sometimes narrowly viewed) as well. Unless readers are desperate for a road trip, they should turn instead to the author’s lovely That Thing We Call a Heart (BCCB 6/17).