May 6, 2016 by Betty
I went into this book expecting it to be a thought provoking, but fun, quick read. But it wasn’t. Not at all. Rather it takes you into a richly described culture most of us are not intimately familiar with. However, Aisha Saeed, of Pakistani descent herself, delves into a world she knows from experience. While I know some of Pakistani culture and tradition such as arranged marriages, women being seen as inferior intellectually and in other areas, this book really went into a detailed story of one girl’s experience with the culture of her parents.
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!
Written in the Stars is a lushly enthralling, captivating, intense, emotional story of a girl trapped in a foreign country, separated from everything and everyone she knows. When her strict and conservative parents learn of her secret relationship with Saif, they are beyond furious. They worry what the other Pakistani members of the community will think. The day after the discovery of her secret boyfriend, her parents inform her and her brother that they will be traveling to Pakistan for a month long vacation. Naila enjoys her stay in a culutre and enviorment she’s only been told of, with family she has never met in person, but when the stay gets extended a week and then another she begins to suspect that something is not right. What she learns is that her parents have been planning an arranged marriage for her…immediately. They have no plans on Naila returning to America to continue on in college. Panic stricken, she flees from her uncle’s home with the help of her cousin but is caught before getting far.
The way her parents and uncle treat her are horrifying and degrading. To the point that upon her escape being thwarted, she is locked in a room where she will stay until the marriage is all figured out. When she refuses to eat after five days, her uncle, furious at her “childish and spoiled” behavior drugs her and forces her to eat. The keep her drug until the moment she is expected to agree to her arranged marriage and sign the marriage certificate. When she rouses enough to realize what is happening she refuses. Even so she is forced to sign the certificate and dropped off at her “husband’s” home. To limit what I give away, I’ll just say that much still happens after this point. The story concludes with a bittersweet ending. Better than most faced in that situation.
I cried like a baby. The book started off happy and carefree, then tension built, then things seem to settle down, then tension built AGAIN, then a little bit of panic and terror and despair and a little more despair, then things get a little melancholy, and then MORE DESPAIR, and then a ray of light, some tragic happenings and in the end a somewhat bittersweet ending. Basically, it was a melting pot of emotions.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves strong female protaganists or story based in different cultures/ countries. It really does explore many deep topics and is extremely enlightening into a pratice and attitude towards women that still exists today.
About the Author
Aisha Saeed is an author, mama, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books™. Aisha has been blogging for over a decade and her writing has also appeared in many places including BlogHer and The Orlando Sentinel. She is also a contributing author to the anthology Love Inshallah
While Aisha loves writing about a variety of topics, her main passion lies in channeling her inner teen. She is the author of WRITTEN IN THE STARS, Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books  and the forthcoming novel THIS PROMISE I WILL KEEP to be published in 2017 with Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. She is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency.
When Aisha isn’t writing or chasing her two little boys, you can find her reading, baking, doodling henna patterns, or daydreaming about eight consecutive hours of sleep.
You can connect with Aisha at her website, or follow on her social media.