All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Things We See In The Light by Amal Awad

on October 18, 2021

The Things We See In The Light
Amal Awad
Pantera Press
2021, 364p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: “In the cafe, I watch as a woman takes a photo of her plate an impressive, glossy lime-coloured dessert with shards of chocolate perched on top. I want to feel that ease and confidence, too. Like this is my city again, and I know my way around it”.

Eight years ago, Sahar pursued her happily ever after when she married Khaled and followed him to Jordan, leaving behind her family, her friends and a thriving cake business. But married life didn’t go as planned and, haunted by secrets, Sahar has returned home to Sydney without telling her husband.

With the help of her childhood friends, Sahar hits the reset button on her life. She takes a job at a local patisserie run by Maggie, a strong but kind manager who guides Sahar in sweets and life.

But as she tentatively gets to know her colleagues, Sahar faces a whole new set of challenges. There’s Kat and Inez, who are determined that Sahar try new experiences. Then there’s Luke, a talented chocolatier and a bundle of contradictions.

As Sahar embraces the new, she reinvents herself, trying things once forbidden to her. But just when she is finally starting to find her feet, her past finds its way back to her.

Ok I have to admit, I borrowed this on a whim from my local library/Borrow Box based just on the description and it didn’t occur to me that it might’ve been connected to another book. But when I began reading it, I got the feeling that I was definitely missing something and that a lot of things were being talked of like I should know the background or how this character had feelings for that character, etc. I looked it up and there’s a previous book by the author from about 2012, that deals with Sahar’s friend Samira, who appears pretty regularly in this book and I assume all the background of these characters are given during Samira’s story (which sounds really interesting and I definitely want to read it now).

But this book kicks off with Sahar arriving on her friend Lara’s doorstep, unannounced, having left her husband and marriage in Jordan where she has lived for the past 7 or 8 years. Sahar appears to have always been a rather devout Muslim, but right now, she seems to be having a bit of a personal and even religious crisis. Her marriage is over, incidents have happened that have tested her. She is on the cusp of a new beginning, that means living with Lara in Sydney and getting a job at a well known and popular pasty cafe and sweets place. Before marrying, Sahar made cakes and ran her own small business but in this new job, she’s starting at the bottom and working her way up. She bonds with her fellow workers, even the grumpy and intense Luke, after a rough start and together they implement a sort of challenge for Sahar, where they will all give her things to do that take her out of her comfort zone. Lara and Samira join in too, adding their choices.

This book is told in a back and forth kind of way, with sections in the present day during Sahar’s arrival back in Sydney interspersed with snippets of her life and marriage in Jordan, beginning in the first year and moving forward. Slowly, Sahar’s story is revealed and the reader learns what her marriage was like, how her feelings evolved, the struggle she faced and the tragedy that at last drove her to leave her husband and marriage and return to Australia, where she grew up. You could tell how affected Sahar was by what had happened and how she couldn’t talk about it yet, even with her closest friends. For her, I think there was also a lot of confusion and maybe not shame, but something similar, about the way things had gone in Jordan. A lot of complex feelings to work through and things to come to terms with.

I really enjoyed this and found it incredibly easy to read in a single sitting. I liked that Sahar is somewhat a bit older than books that usually deal with people trying to find themselves – she was probably closer to my own age (late 30s) and struggling at times, with the frustration of being a ‘beginner’ in the pastry place, to wanting more freedom and the chance to showcase her talents, express herself. She’s also somewhat struggling with who she is as a person, choosing to change some things about herself, things about her religious expression and also finding her self-confidence again, recentering herself. I thought Sahar’s journey was so well explored and I loved her growing friendships with Kat and Inez from the pastry place.

There’s a bit of a romance with Luke, who is a talented chocolate worker and I also liked that it was not all smooth sailing. For a start it’s complicated because they work together and both of them have a lot of issues that they need to overcome. The conflict and the resolutions felt realistic, two people negotiating something that neither of them had expected (or maybe even wanted) but that they thought could really be something.

I really liked all the characters (definitely want to know more about Lara’s background and how she came to be in the relationship she’s in at the beginning of this book) and so I am off to hopefully find a copy of Samira’s story, Courting Samira which will hopefully give me all the background information I should’ve had before reading this one. Having said that though, I think you can still definitely read this without having read that first book – this is really Sahar’s story and although she references her friends and their individual situations, the journey she takes is the focus.

8/10

Book #177 of 2021

This is book #77 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021


2 responses to “Review: The Things We See In The Light by Amal Awad

  1. Marg says:

    This sounds like my kind of read!

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