Huma Qureshi’s debut collection of short stories was one I was excited about reading. As a Pakistani women of around the same age I was hoping this collection would speak to me in a way that other short stories haven’t. I know it’s an unrealistic and unfair pressure to put on the author, but I was keen to see myself in these stories.
I sank into the first story, Premonition, which looks back at the narrators first crush. The boy is the son of a family friend, and her feelings develop over their weekly family get-togethers crescendoing in a kiss that has far reaching consequences. Summer, the second story is about Reem. Married to Anthony and a mother of two, she invites her own mother on their family summer holiday. They have a strained relationship, in which Reem feels her mother is too critical of her and her choices. The situation deteriorates within the hot-pot of the holiday, and their relationship suffers beyond repair.
The first two stories stood out to me in that while there were bits that I could relate to, I definitely didn’t see myself in them. That being said, I did enjoy them. What I didn’t expect was how dark the themes of this book were. All the stories revolve around relationships the difficulties in communicating truthfully and completely to those closest to us (the clue was in the title). Often times having dual heritage can lead to living a bipolar existence whilst juggling the expectations of two cultures, especially when they are significantly different. Superstitious, deals with this when the protagonist finds herself pregnant with her dead boyfriends baby. Her memories of her childhood in Lahore and the superstitions surrounding widows haunt her. In Foreign Parts, the narrative voice switches from female to male. Mark is visiting Pakistan with Amina, his fiancé. In Lahore though, they are not like they were in Rome or Paris, in Lahore Amina is “Argumentative in her mother tongue… in Lahore Amina is changed”
One of my favourite stories in this collection was Too Much. It’s the story of a single mother who has raises her daughter outside of the confined boundaries she was raised. She does her upmost to be a friend rather than a mother, so when their relationship isn’t quite as she, Amal, see’s it, she finds herself on a pursuit of understanding. Told from the perspective of the mother it’s intense (and dark).
Jam Maker, the winner of the 2020 Haper’s Bazaar short story competition, wasn’t one I was fully convinced by. I wasn’t entirely sure where my sympathies lay and the ending was a bit abrupt for me. I appreciate short stories are limited in their scope but the main character lacked introspection, especially as the story is told as a memory.
All in all, I think this is an interesting collection of stories that will resonate with people for lots of reasons. I loved that the stories were dark and twisted and explored the murkier side of love and communication. Reading these short stories certainly made me more curious about Huma and her own experiences growing up, so I’m looking forward to reading ‘How We Met’, her memoir which was published last year.
Title: Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love
Originally published: 11 November 2021
Author: Huma Qureshi