What if hope is stronger than the impossible?
It was midnight when I began "Written in the Stars." My plan was to read a few pages, but I ended up reading all night.
"Written in the Stars," by Aisha Saeed, begins innocently. Naila, a Pakistani-American, is a high school senior, looking forward to graduation and college.
However, her parents will decide who she will marry. She is not even allowed to date.
When Naila sneaks off to prom, her parents are furious. When tempers cool, they plan a month-long family vacation to Pakistan. But when the vacation becomes extended, Naila discovers that her parents are covertly arranging her marriage.
At this point, the walls begin to close in. Her parents hide her passport and extra cash. When she attempts to escape to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, her uncle drags her off the bus.
Eventually, Naila is drugged and forced to marry. As the months continue, she realizes that this will be her new life. The only other option is death.
On one level, "Written in the Stars" is a fast-paced story about a young woman seeking freedom and a voice.
But the book also explores the concept of destiny. When Naila's husband, Amid, realizes that she had been forced into marriage, he also feels cheated. However, he believes that there is nothing to be done.
As a result, readers begin to wrestle with larger questions. When does one accept impossible situations? Does hope always exist?
Naila's story is also rooted in reality.
Author Saeed is a Pakistani-American. She and her husband are happily married in an arranged marriage.
However, in the authors note, Saeed explains that many arranged marriages are brought about by pressure, threats and violence. Further more, forced marriages are not limited to any one culture or religion. They occur in America and around the world.
"Written in the Stars" is a powerful story and one not easily forgotten, and its strength goes beyond the plot. Naila is a young woman with heart, fight and conviction, even when all hope is shattered.
"Written in the Stars." By Aisha Saeed. Penguin, 2015. 296 pp.