I was sent an uncorrected proof copy of Good Intentions earlier this month and I was incredibly excited about everything this novel represented. A cast of characters that reflected the university experience of millennials from a South Asian background, navigating relationships inside and outside the home, cultural expectations verses second generation immigrant experiences and most excitingly for me, a male lead who didn’t conform to the typical stereotype of a Muslim man.
It’s New Years Eve, December 2018 and Nur has spent the last two weeks of the holidays at home with his parents and his siblings because he has finally plucked up the courage to speak to them about Yasmina, his girlfriend of four years. A Black Sudanese Muslim. As the eldest son of a working-class Pakistani family living in a traditional/typical community, surrounded with “aunties” Nur grapples with the consequences of his decision. He wants to be a good son, he loves his parents but he also loves Yasmina.
In the non linier narrative, we learn more about the previous four years that have led to this moment and the consequences beyond it. We meet Nur’s friends, who are on their own complex journeys of discovering their identity at university and we delve deeper into his relationships with his younger brother and sister. The story is very much about identity and what it means to be a child of immigrants and the expectations of generations of culture and traditions verses the need to be and become your own person.
The exploration of race and racism within communities of colour is dealt with sensitively but accordingly. There is so much in this book that will resonate with its readers, who ever they might be, as manoeuvring through relationships, growing into yourself, and managing conflicts are universal experiences, but I really appreciated being able to see myself in the cast. I liked the way the story jumped backwards and forwards in time, allowing the reader a holistic look at the present, and I thought each of the characters was well researched and contributed to the overall arc. There was nothing superfluous and the plot didn’t rely on stereotypes and generalizations to move ahead.
Good Intentions is bold in its endeavours and beautifully crafted to tell a story of modern-day love. It asks big questions, explores difficult subjects and takes the reader on a voyage of the human experience of interdependence, need fulfilment and emotional attachments.
Good Intentions by Kasim Ali is published by 4th Estate in March 2022.
If you enjoyed The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain or Open Waters by Caleb Azumah Nelson, I’m sure you will enjoy this too. Author Huma Qureshi had this to say about it:
‘Good Intentions is a magnificent and messy love story that broke my heart. Bittersweet and tender, Ali writes about modern day relationships with such compassion. This is a novel for anyone who has ever known what it is to be conflicted in falling in love, feeling the expectations of our families but also ourselves; it is for anyone who has ever felt their heart breaking under the weight of it all’ Huma Qureshi, author of How We Met