First, I would like to congratulate Beena on her first novel! Second, I want to thank Beena for reaching out to me and asking if I would read and review her debut novel. I greatly appreciate the opportunity, and I am grateful for the gifted PDF of your novel.
Beena Khan shares a intimate anecdote for what inspired her debut novel, at the end of the book. I have to say, I appreciate her bravery in being open about her mental health, and for turning a difficult moment into a work of art. If that isn’t incredibly empowering, I don’t know what is. I would have preferred her explanation as a foreword, instead of an afterword, simply because the characters made more sense after finding out how they came to be. And I don’t think that takes anything away from the story, or spoils anything. It’s a really beautiful moment Beena shares with her readers, and it’s so vulnerable, and that translates well into the characters.
This book is incredibly deep, and it shines a light on so many factors regarding self-care, grief, healing and mental and emotional struggles. The book opens with our leading lady, Red, getting herself dressed up and going out, with no specific destination in mind. Inclement weather thwarts her plan and she ends up finding shelter in our leading mans bar/restaurant/lounge. Honestly, I didn’t find a whole lot to genuinely like about Red in the first several chapters. She came across as shallow, closed off and kind of strange. I warmed up to Kabir much faster, though he did strike me as somewhat creepy in the beginning. The first half of the book is a lot of build up, a lot of literary references (which I did enjoy) and some intricate backstory.
I really enjoyed the cultural aspects of this book. It was beautiful how the two histories unfolded, and I really appreciated learning more about all the cultural dynamics among the characters. It was really great reading about Kabir and his faith, Red and her mysterious lack of faith, and Aryan (another character with a large role within the story). I was very intrigued by the experience of reading about that characters cultural differences. It was a beautiful aspect to this novel.
The first half of the book is mainly getting to know the characters on a somewhat superficial level and seeing their internal struggles play out. We learn tidbits about the characters, nothing too heavy, but enough that they really start taking shape. For me, the first twist in the book was so well done. I did not see it coming, and it really helped me see Red as a broken soul. That was really when I started seeing that her character was much more complex than I originally thought. She has so much hurt, anger, guilt, regret, sadness, misery and emptiness inside of her… and that translates across the pages in the most heartbreaking display of vulnerability. The moment Red shares that information with Kabir was the moment I was hooked.
We get some pretty sad backstory with Kabir and Aryan as well, but neither of their twists hit me like Red’s did, and when Red and Kabir were sharing their sorrows with each other… the entire conversation where Red is saying don’t compare grief, it isn’t a competition was the moment I fell in love with who Red really is. That was when her heart, compassion, strength and wisdom really became apparent to me.
After we get through the first twist with our unconventional lovers, we have some nice and easy reading until we are slapped in the face with another, bigger, twist. Beena Khan knows how to catch you completely off guard! And in just a couple sentences, she grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go!
I really enjoyed the complexities of this story. The fact that reading was a big part of what drew our characters together, was lovely. The use of color and weather elements to help describe a scene was great as well. You take such an emotional journey throughout this book, and Beena orchestrates the ride so beautifully. Her characters have so much depth, and are described in a way that absolutely humanizes them. I found Beena’s writing to be extremely smart, and she tells a story without giving anything away, until she smacks you in the face with something so unexpected, yet still very believable, that you find yourself unable to put the book down. The last half of the book, I couldn’t flip the page fast enough. I did not see the ending coming, and I actually really enjoyed the way it ended… so much beauty, heartbreak and freedom.
If you are looking for a complex, complicated, entirely very human and truly beautiful love story, this is the book for you. This unconventional story is told in such a unique way, and you will find yourself empathizing with Red, and Kabir in the most intimate of ways.
A couple things to mention, I found several continuity issues within the story. Not enough to take away from the overall plot, but I did find myself going back to make sure I hadn’t misread something earlier. Small details that weren’t caught in editing, I suppose. There were also some awkward phrases used, and some dialogue disconnect, leaving you to make the correction in your head. I also can tell that Beena doesn’t curse much in her daily life, as I found the few swears within the story very awkward. I did some research, and Been is an indie Author, this is her first novel, so it is a learning experience. In the future, having a stronger editor (or perhaps more than one person proofing) might be ideal. I did not find these minor issues enough of a deterrent to put me off the story, and I would honestly read Beena Khan’s work again, simply to see what other stories she has to tell and to see her growth as she comes into her own as a writer. I am calling it now, Beena Khan will be one of those writers who only gets better and better with each publication, and the fact that she is actively reaching out to people for reviews says a lot. I can definitely appreciate that. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, and this story is #katyapproved.
Find The Name of Red by Beena Khan on Amazon.
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