No Sex in the City – by Randa Abdel-Fattah
This is the first adult novel from Abdel-Fattah, who’s known for her Young Adult novels, like the award-winning “Does My Head Look Big In This?” I picked this up free from work (score!) for a few reasons: a) I’ve a soft spot for pun titles, b) YA to adult contemporary fiction? Very me! and c) I’m interested in the perspective here. Abdel-Fattah’s a young Muslim-Australian, and I thought her insight into such a culture in contemporary Australian society would be fascinating and valuable. Here’s my take on No Sex in the City:
Esma wants to find The One. Who doesn’t, right? And as a twenty-eight year old, intelligent, funny, attractive woman with integrity and standards, this shouldn’t be too hard. Sure, she has a few more criteria for a partner to fulfil if they’re The One – they must be Muslim, able to hold up their end of a conversation, educated, interested in social justice, employed, and spiritual without being too overbearing. But Esma refuses to settle for less in her settling down – why should she? It’s just a matter of waiting it out.
Lisa, Ruby, Nirvana and Esma have been each others’ rocks for as long as they can remember. Lisa’s not interested in dating or marriage. Well, maybe one day – but it’d take a pretty special person to compete with her passion for her work with refugees. Ruby’s just as passionate about her Greek heritage. Her personality and drive are forces to be reckoned with, and any suitable suitor will need to be able to keep up. Nirvana has a similarly conservative background to Esma. She’s ready to settle down, but is having trouble finding someone both traditional and modern. Living with the in-laws after marriage may be how things used to be done, but over Nirvana’s single body! Together, these four amazing girls make up the No Sex in the City club.
The Club’s more an excuse to catch up and celebrate their latest triumphs/commiserate on the latest setbacks (professional or romantic) than enything else, but it is a wonderful vehicle of support for the women, as well as a great way for the reader to check in. The path to true love never did run smoothly, after all, and who can help if not your best friends?
I really enjoyed these characters. We spend the most time getting to know Esma, and I found myself worrying with her about her problems, and getting excited for her when things (finally) seemed to be going right. The other girls were lovely, too, and Abdel-Fattah did a great job with the different voices, making them distinct and relatable in their separate ways. I particularly loved Ruby, she’s feisty and opinionated, enthusiastic and a little too quick to jump into things – I found her really endearing and perhaps a little familiar! Like real friends, they were at times frustrating, at times overly sensitive, at times sad, at times powerful, and above all, always beloved.
The plot twists appropriately and is well-paced. The highs and lows are sometimes serious, life-altering obstacles, at other times are minor setbacks that are treated way more seriously than they needed to be. These all felt true to most young women’s experiences. In a lot of ways, the story echoed YA fiction, feeling like a coming-of-age story told from a different point of view. Here, the women already know who they are, and have firm ideas about what they want. Learning how to achieve their goals while staying true to themselves is another sort of growth, and another sort of tale.
A familiar tale from a fresh perspective, and definitely a worthwhile read.
Have you come across Randa Abdel-Fattah before?