Published by BERKLEY on April 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
I requested Uzma Jalaluddin’s new novel, Hana Khan Carries On, as soon as I read the synopsis which describes it as inspired by the popular romantic film, You’ve Got Mail, but set in two competing halal restaurants. The promise of romance, rivalry, and descriptions of delicious food was too irresistible to pass up. I’m happy I did too because it did not disappoint!
The story follows Hana Khan, a 24 year old second generation Muslim woman who lives with her family in Toronto. Hana helps out at her family’s halal restaurant, but her real passion lies in radio. In addition to her waitressing gig, Hana has an internship at a local radio station and she also hosts her own podcast. I really adored Hana from the moment we meet her. I loved how devoted she is to her family and how much she wants to help her mom with the family restaurant even though that’s not where her true interest lies. I also loved that she wants a career in radio specifically because she wants to share stories about her fellow Muslims. Stories that shine a true light on her people rather than just retreading tired and harmful stereotypes. I also liked that while she had so many admirable qualities, Hana was definitely still a flawed and very realistic character. She makes plenty of mistakes throughout the course of the story, but I loved that she was always learning from her missteps and growing as a person. She was just a really easy character to like.
In addition to adoring Hana, I also liked that the story had plenty of drama in the form of a rival restaurant that opens up in their neighborhood. Hana has a run-in with Aydin, the handsome, young owner of the new restaurant and finds herself unexpectedly attracted to him. She knows she should hate him because of what he’s doing to her family, but the struggle to fight her attraction to him is real. Hana finds this especially frustrating since she also has a possible relationship budding online with Stanley P., one of her podcast fans. She and Stanley haven’t exchanged real names or met in person yet, but they talk every day and he is always super supportive of her as she shares her hopes and dreams with him, as well as her fears and frustrations. How can she possibly be attracted to a jerk like Aydin when she has Stanley P.? Except that Aydin isn’t exactly a jerk and Hana and Aydin have amazing chemistry. I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers romance anyway, so I was absolutely eating up the initial tension between them as well as the changing dynamic between them as they got to know each other better.
There’s honestly so much to love about Hana Khan Carries On, but what I think I loved most was it’s a story about love and family and sacrifice and that it’s also a story that is infused with culture, religion, and community. It’s a story that has fun and romantic moments, but it’s also a powerful story that explores timely and relevant social issues, including racism, prejudice, and stereotypes. I have not yet read Uzma Jalaluddin’s first novel Ayesha At Last yet, but I loved Hana Khan Carries On so much that I immediately purchased the first one and can’t wait to dive into it.