The third book from my NetGalley TBR read and reviewed; I’m aware that I’ve fallen behind somewhat, an unfortunately combination of lots of work in and a chap doing work on our radiators this week has held me back a bit. I will get there and I’m enjoying what I’m reading, which is of course the main thing. Here’s an interesting first novel looking at what it is to be a good British Muslim son.

Kasim Ali – “Good Intentions”

(15 November 2021, NetGalley)

Nur and Yasmina are happily in love, living together, even – but there’s one problem. That’ll be Nur. He’s convinced his family (mainly his parents, his dad born in Pakistan, his mum born in the UK as a second-generation immigrant with Pakistani parents) won’t accept Yasmina because she’s Black. We hop around during the four years they’re together, back and forth from when they meet to various scenes in their relationship, always returning to early 2019, when Nur finally tells his parents. We see his brother and sister, the family’s reaction to his wanting to leave home for university, his grandma’s perspective, and then his friends, the rather terrifying ex Saara, the friend from home, Rahat, and the newer friend from university, Imran, and Yasmina’s family.

Although this was a little bit in the “millennials and their painful love” genre (I seem to have read a lot of books in this area: “Open Water”, etc.), there was more to it than that. One aspect was the examination of different ways to be a good British Muslim son. Nur is always straining towards independence, but his brother Khalil chooses a university close to home; Rahat chooses a traditional option he’s scared Nur will decry; and Imran comes out as gay but courageously follows his heart and doesn’t choose the half-way option his parents present him with.

We also see an examination of mental ill health and toxic masculinity at play. Nur has at times overwhelming anxiety and depression. He doesn’t let people in or talk about it, although he really seems to help one character with her mental health issues at one point. Rahat is the only person who can really read and calm him – so is this actually fair on Yasmina, either.

The author does not let Nur off the hook. The ending is completely fair, looking at the different paths things might have taken: this is realistic and means Nur must face up to his actions. All the dotting around to different time frames before that builds a nuanced and realistic portrayed of a young man too convinced of his own perceptions to countenance anyone else’s: will he learn from these experiences?

A good read and I will look out for more by this author for sure. And it’s nice that some of it is set in Birmingham, too.

Thank you to Fourth Estate for selecting me to read this book in return for an honest review. “Good Intentions” was published on 03 March 2022.