Book Review: “Kismet” by Amina Akhtar

I got a copy of this book as one of my ‘Amazon first’ books and due to the number of other books I’d been reading recently, had completely forgotten what the book was about and why I’d chosen it by the time I got round to reading it.

In terms of the story itself, it revolves around a central protagonist who moves with a friend to another part of the USA. But more than that it is about how this person develops, about her possibly having some psychic abilities (that, in part, revolves around ravens, which are essentially protagonists themselves in some chapters), and in quite a few sections of the section about racism and issues of being an outsider (I got the impression that this is the message that the author was particularly keen to get through to readers). On the face of it, there was much I could enjoy about the storyline itself, but, although I did enjoy it overall, for some reason I didn’t quite click with the book and aspects of the storyline, so didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had expected.

Having said that, there was no shortage of bits of text that I could relate to, made me stop and think, or I found well-written. In fact, according to Goodreads, I had 22 notes/highlighted bits of text, which is substantially more than I have most books. It’s so many there I won’t be presenting them all here. I’m also going to edit a couple (or present them out of order) so as to ensure there are no spoilers for those of you who decide to read the book.

In terms of the character development, one of the things to be aware of is that the protagonist starts of quite shy and has suffered in a variety of ways. But she tries to push herself to do more. This leads to her making the following observation,

She was saying yes to life, taking leaps of faith, and trying to be happy. To be well. She hated it.

and

Pretending to be normal and happy and well. That took effort.

I think there are many who can relate to the struggle to be happy or fitting in, particularly when going out of their comfort zone or struggling with mental health issues. Similarly, the view of

Wanting to be loved. Wanting someone who would never care about her to accept her. Wanting someone to want her to exist.

is something that is relatable and something I also touched upon in discussing “The God’s Eye View” by Barry Eisler. Further, the protagonist has a friendship, like Manus in “The God’s Eye View”, where they just feel comfortable with that friend and want to open up to them, without really understanding why.

The protagonist likes to walk…

This was when she felt like herself. Whoever that was. But she didn’t feel like she was pretending when she was walking. She was just her. For better or worse.

I can understand that – walks by yourself can be very rewarding, though I often find that listening to a podcast is better than total silence or music to help keep my mind focussed on something. I suspect this is something that the protagonist would also understand given her thoughts about the impact of losing a friend and how she continued to dwell on this loss and the reasons for it – ranging from being angry with that person (and considering deleting them from their list of contacts and trying to pretend that they never having existed) to angry with themselves, but overall there being a ‘void’. I totally get that.

Although I’m sure coffee drinkers will have something to say about this, I certainly nodded and probably even laughed a little when I read the following,

The skin specialist offered her some tea, the adult version of a lollipop for kids.

Together these quotes show the protagonist to be a relatable person, or at least a fictional character that sounds believable (see my post on ‘pillars of truth‘) and yet, for some reason, there were aspects of the character and their development that I found harder to be on board with and that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I would have expected.

In addition to the notes about the protagonist, there were other notes, for example,

That was what most people didn’t realize: nature didn’t need humans. In fact, nature was better when people weren’t around

This ties in closely with a theme that I’m thinking of discussing in my next novel, the yet untitled third book in my Iwakura series.

One line that really made me stop and think was

“Sometimes people come into your life for a reason. And once they fulfill that, they move on.”

Is this really the case? When do we know that they have fulfilled that reason? Is that how others would view me? I still haven’t decided how I feel about all of this.

As I noted, there are many more things that I made notes and had ideas about, but I will hold those back, but may revisit at another time in some form. Anyway, as I said, overall I found “Kismet” to be an enjoyable read.

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