It would be fair to say I have a complex relationship with food, Bookaholics. If I’m happy, I eat. If I’m sad, I eat. If I am breathing, I eat. (I haven’t had a chance to try eating from beyond the grave yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to do that too). I have huge respect for people capable of any type of fasting, whether it be for health or religious reasons, and find it hard to imagine doing so unless under significant duress. I am consequently very much in awe of the protagonist of My Little Ramadan by Abigail Yardimci, who attempts to replicate her husband’s spiritual fast. This is a touching, often funny and surprisingly philosophical tale that truly made me smile, and tugged on my heart strings on nearly every page.
Married to her Turkish soulmate, Mesut, and mother to a young son, Jess is having a tough time. Living above a noisy pub where her husband is working every hour he can to build a new life in Scotland, she struggles with the realities of raising a small child in a far from ideal environment. When Mesut embarks on 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset for Ramadan, Jess offers to do the same in solidarity with her husband, despite not sharing his religious beliefs. She charts her progress through a warts and all blog published online, and as its popularity grows, she faces increasing negativity from a number of her readers. With Mesut growing concerned about the publicity, and Jess struggling to follow her heart whilst keeping him happy, complications ensue. When catastrophe strikes, will she have the strength to make it through the 30 days or has she bitten off more (or maybe much, much less) than she can chew?
I was initially a bit concerned about the premise of this novel, apprehensive it may minimalise an important religious event. Given I’ve read other work by Yardimci, I should never have feared – the author tackles cultural difference with sensitivity, humour and respect. Jess’ attempt to replicate Ramadan is driven solely by the purest of intentions: love for her husband, appreciation of all he has given up to be with her, and a desire to reach a more spiritual understanding of the world around her. The book tackles some pretty tough topics, not least the racism that pervades our society despite many pretending otherwise, but counterbalances this with a poignant portrayal of love in all its fabulous forms. From family to friends to folk newly encountered, Jess has a life blessed with so much affection, and you can’t help but fall in love with her as much as all the other characters around her seem to.
This is an incredibly uplifting story and I’ve had a smile on my face ever since finishing it. If you are looking for something funny yet moving, inspiring yet real, My Little Ramadan is the novel for you. Just one small warning: I swear all that talk of not eating made me want to eat more. But maybe that’s just me…