Good Intentions by Kasim Ali – Book review

Good Intentions – we all have them. It doesn’t always seem like that to people around us though, as our lead character, Nur soon discovers in this story. He’s a young Muslim man who’s happily in love with Yasmina, his girlfriend of four years. The thing is, he hasn’t told his family about Yasmina because she’s Black and his family are from Pakistan, and he’s worried about what they will think.

Opening sentence: Nur’s two weeks are early up and he still hasn’t said it.

Identity & Tradition

Good Intentions explores themes of race, identity, relationships and how much traditions dictate the lives of the younger generations. It looks at the reasons why Nur has kept his Sudanese girlfriend a secret from his family and addresses an aspect of racism I haven’t read a novel about before:

He’d never considered the nuances of racism, how insidious it is, how it operates across a spectrum, rearing different heads to different people.

Despite both Nur and Yasmina being Muslim, he knows that wouldn’t be enough for his family, as Yasmina is Black. So when he finally decides he must tell them about his relationship, how will his family react?

Good Intentions effortlessly conveys the conflict that so many young people go through between being respectful of the tradition and family values they were brought up with, and carving their own place in the world.

But how many people in the family do we know who are married to Black people. It’s just… harder.

The tension and intrigue in this read comes from looking at those nuanced juxtapositions: what happens when you come from a loving and supportive family but realise it’s on their terms, and suddenly those terms look outdated and racist?

A male lead

As well as being a bit of a different read for me from a theme perspective, it also was from a genre one. I don’t often read novels written by men (not a conscious choice, I’m just drawn to female authors generally), so this love story written with both a male author and male romantic lead felt quite refreshing actually.

Nur was a character you care about, although I did find myself wishing he had a little more courage and then maybe he could have had more say over the outcome of his life.

The fact the story didn’t go the way I expected was a nice surprise. It meant it felt grounded and worked to give authenticity to the themes Good Intentions was exploring.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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