Cover Image: These Impossible Things

These Impossible Things

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Disappointing. At first, I felt like I was watching a high school musical. Fortunately, this did get better as the story progressed. But what I really didn't understand was why all the white men had to be perfect and the Muslim men were portrayed so negatively.
Was this review helpful?
A delicious read.

These Impossible Things follows the life and friendship of Kees, Jenna and Malak. Each one of the girls are different but have a shared love of exploring cultural taboos and pushing boundaries. Life pulls this friendship apart forcing the girls to rely on themselves. 

The challenges the girls face from society but also from their own beliefs was interesting to explore and consider. 

I couldn’t put this book down and would definitely recommend!
Was this review helpful?
I’m giving 5 big, fat stars to These Impossible Things which is Salma’s debut novel and I hope to god she continues writing because we’ve got a new star!

This is a story of three best friends who challenge love, life and faith together….until a very deep argument separates them.

These Impossible Things had me hooked and the topics covered resonated so much with me. They’re all Muslim and trying to juggle their religion and culture while growing up Western. That’s basically my life story!

These Impossible Things was truly a rollercoaster journey for me as Salma talks about really sensitive topics. But the sisterhood gave me life and I won’t forget the story in a hurry!
Was this review helpful?
We meet Jenna, Kees and Malak, three British Muslim young women who met at school and have stuck together ever since, arranging to go to the same university and keeping a tight friendship group, and watch them over a couple of years as their lives tangle and untangle. It's a very plot-led book, so hard to talk about in some ways: two of them are dating White young men at the start, one at the end; two experience coercive control and/or domestic violence; all of them suppress their real selves to an extent for their families and culture; they argue and there's a rupture when things are said that can't be said, but of course they are all, always, inevitably there for each other when the really bad stuff happens.

El-Wardany uses the book to explore what pathways might be open to such young women: studying away from home but then maybe returning "home" to Egypt to experience life as one of the majority culture for once (although separated by relative wealth as an ex-pat), engaging with White friends and in-laws or immersing oneself back into one's culture, getting your first job and dealing with micro-aggressions. 

I liked the positive models of the three White young men in the novel, a boyfriend, an ex and a best friend. Maybe they were put in to mollify White readers, but they are three-dimensional and model being supportive and understanding - I particularly liked the way one of them interacted with his girlfriend's estranged family, urging politeness and understanding and using Arabic phrases sparingly and appropriately, a positive message of hope. 

The book was well-written; I liked the drawing out of the focus now and then to look at an overview of part of a city and its inhabitants, both the families from the book and other more random people. I liked the sense of a cohesive culture and the scary aunties and the fact that it didn't feel I was being too pandered to with explanations of what everything was that wasn't specifically White British. The descriptions of the importance of Islam to the three central women characters were nicely done and it was good to see prayer and practices woven through their lives as a positive. 

In the end, the book is a great testament to friendship, both male and female. While women friends will blithely ignore the red flags in their friend's relationship to "do her the great service of looking in other directions", when those red flags come to fruition they are there in a heartbeat. The change between those two states is delineated carefully in this excellent novel. I will look out for more by this author.

My review on my blog:
Was this review helpful?
Beautiful writing and I loved the characters but would have been nice if the white guys weren't the heroes. I found that to be confusing.
Was this review helpful?
An emotionalli charged, riveting, and thought provoking book. The story of three Muslim girls, their life and their struggles.
It's well written and deals with serious topics like abuse.
It's an excellent read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
I'll make no bones about the fact that I initially found the first few dialogues off putting and also found the characters to be quite unlikeable. It was only after the characters went their separate ways that I gradually got into the book.
Kees, Malak and Jenna are best friends at university; all belonging to the Muslim faith but from different ethnicities. After a row, the girls part ways and their stories are told.
Each girl's story is relevant and through their stories, Salma El-Wardany has written about topics that are considered taboo especially when it came to religion and relationships. However, there were several things that really irked me. If the girls were so close, how could they toss away their friendship so easily? Secondly, I really didn't like how Muslim men were portrayed so negatively and how the white men were the nice guys. The biggest issue for me was that the author made the three girls into practicing Muslims who in their practical lives didn't abide by any religion whatsoever (all that sex) yet they seemed to miraculously pray five times a day.
The only way to read this book is with an open mind. It's not an easy straightforward read. Subject wise, there's a lot of baggage to unpack.
Was this review helpful?
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, charting the trials and tribulations in life and love of three young Muslim women. Addressing some big issues including familial estrangement and domestic abuse, El-Wardany totally immerses the reader in these women's lives and explores their characters in such detail that you feel a genuine connection and empathy with them. A powerful debut that tugs on the heartstrings, but equally has moments of real life affirming power.
Was this review helpful?
A heartwrenching novel that had me crying on the last page. Thank you to NetGalley for my ARC.

'These Impossible Things' by Salma El-Wardany follows the lives of three Muslim girls - Malak, Kees, and Jenna - as they finish University and move into the adult world. But right when they need each other the most the girls 'break up' and go out alone with nobody to confide in - and this becomes their undoing.

I had a love/hate relationship with this book.

Love: A compelling read, this had me itching to turn the page to find out what happens to each character. El-Wardany holds the tension running through the stories of each girl magnificently until each story comes to a satisfying close. The struggles of finding your place in a world and a religion that pulls you all over the place are fully described and the different paths that each girl takes adds up to a rich picture of different ways of living.

El-Wardany deals with trauma and the unspoken pressure to always do your best. Central to that is the strict religious upbringing that each woman struggles with. Each of the women is a practicing muslim, but how they practice and why is different between each of them. And yet there is no judgement - just a deep relationship with God. There is a wonderful closing paragraph that deals with how all over the world at the same time, there are people praying in the same direction with the same words that was so beautiful that I had to turn back and read it again. On the other hand, if you're particularly religious I don't think you'd like the portrayal of Islam here - it's treated more as part of a culture where you can pick and choose what you follow and don't.

Hate: I picked up this book thinking it would be a story of how friends support each other through adversity. It sort of is? But only in the last 25% of the book. For most of the story an argument leads to nobody talking to each other for nearly two years. Each girl goes through her own struggle alone.

I found it difficult to believe that these girls were truely close because it feels like they have never had honest conversations about life with each other and instead have relied on unspoken expectations to bolster them. During the opening chapters we are told things about characters in the name of exposition that friends should really know already (I recall one of the girls sharing another's food and this being surprising to the group, but the reader is told this 'always happens'). It truely is wonderful and satisfying by the time everything is over and done with but the strong bond between these women is supposed to be what holds the novel together and I just couldn't buy into it.

Overall, if you're looking for a serious look into the pressures of falling in love outside of your culture and the two-faced side of religion then, as strange as this sounds, this is the book for you. It made me feel all of the hurt and pain right alongside of the women who went through them. However, I thought this was going to be a semi-lighthearted story about female friendship and finding love and life after University and was very surprised when it turned out to be much darker. I think if I understood what I was getting into before I read the first page I might have liked this book a lot more.
Was this review helpful?
A well written and thought provoking book, that I couldn't put down. The storyline was riveting and engaging all the way through, but for me one of the best things about this book, by far, was the character development, I loved them. A really enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
Salma El-Wardany delivers three very likeable characters in Malak, Kees (Bilquis) and Jenna. The three young ladies have been friends forever; brought up in the same community, attending the same Mosque, even going to the same university. As they near the end of their University education they know what is expected of them, to marry a Muslim man. However, their perceived futures and how they begin to forge their own paths causes a fall out between the ladies. Left alone to navigate their way in the world, maintain their faith, please their family, and live up to the expectations of their community, each of the women face difficult decisions and heartbreaking ordeals.

It's testament to El-Wardany's writing that the reader feels immersed in the lives of each of these three characters. They feel full and real, and jump off the page. Not an easy feat when you have three parallel stories to tell, but El-Wardany manages it perfectly in my opinion.

This is a fascinating novel that will no doubt open eyes and generate discussion. A powerful debut which I suspect will be one of the books of the summer.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed These Impossible Things which follows three best friends, Kees, Malak, and Jenna as they navigate leaving university into that strange transition period into true adulthood while also navigating love, religion, faith, and maintaining their relationships. 
Kees is in love with Harry, a Catholic man who if she marries means losing her family who will disown her. 
Malak desperately wants to live up to her family's expectations so she leaves what she knows she wanted and 
Jenna is the "wild child" of the group who is trying to figure out what she really wants but wants to save her virginity for marriage. 
All three women are trying to figure out how they fit into the expectations of their families and of Muslim women. 
They have incredibly complex and different views on how their religious views affect their relationships, social lives, sex lives, and, ultimately, all these create tension among their own friendship. 
I really resonated with the big fight and losing touch for a long time having experienced this myself, it is incredibly painful to miss out on each other’s lives after such a long friendship. 
Salma El-Wardeny perfectly writes the feeling of loneliness as people transition into adulthood. I really felt like I got to know these three women and was taken on an emotional rollercoaster. 
I was rooting for all three of them and just wanted the best for them. 
Please be warned this book does have some trigger warnings: sexual abuse, domestic violence, gas lighting and abortion. 
Female friendships are so powerful and I loved that about this book. I know I would be lost without my two best friends. And like Kees, Jenna and Malak we’re all different but without a shadow of a doubt if one of them asked me to get on a plane I’d do it because these girls are my best friends and through thick and thin we will always have each other’s backs. 
I also really liked Harry, Jacob and Lewis and their friendships, they actually gave me faith in men (which gets lost in this book) and made me feel so lucky to have my own good man who is my biggest supporter. 
This book will have you thinking about it long after you read it with its beautiful writing and powerful storyline.
Was this review helpful?
Salma El-Wardany in "These Impossible Things" achieved something rare: a beautiful balance between a truly heart-breaking but also uplifting story. In this novel nothing is black and white, when it comes to faith, personal choices, friendship, familial relations, womanhood. Within the story of Malak, Kees and Jenna the author explores many intersections of one's identity, when it comes to religion but also ethnicity and wealth. The heroines of "These Impossible Things" are wonderfully different and their perspectives make for an interesting story.

El-Wardany is a very talented writer. Not only can she express complicated emotional states in one sentence (the one about women telling each other lies when they truly want to share their struggles at the end of the chapter in which Jenna and Malak sit in a cafe in Cairo got me in tears), but also her narrative choices of mixing up timelines, going into the future perspectives, greatly match the style of "These Impossible Things".
Was this review helpful?
This was a lesson as well as a lovely story. A thought provokingly read and I learnt a lot about the Muslim rules etc.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley for letting me read this as an ARC. I'm so glad I did. 

This book is about three Muslim women - Jenna, Kees and Malak - negotiating love and family. It's set in the UK and in Egypt. I guess the impossible thing is "winning the game" - finding a man who is liberal enough to suit you, and Muslim enough to suit your family. Balancing a world of nightclubs and parties, and work, with a world of tradition is practically and emotionally difficult. 

These three women are complex and fully drawn - if I met them as a group, I'd know immediately who was who. Their dilemmas are complicated, and moving. An exploration of Islam is woven into the story - there's a very beautiful scene in the Sisters' Room in the Mosque, where you get an idea of what a massive world religion this is. Indeed, our three protagonists are Pakistani, Egyptian and Arab - there are other cultural pressures at work here. 

Interestingly, all three women are struggling to find relationships that will work for them and their families, and yet all three seem to have parents in strong, loving marriages. 

If I have a criticism, it's that El-Wardany is possibly a little too kind to the Catholic Church, and to the English men involved. 

I hope I haven't made this sound like a "heavy" read. There are important topics here, but it's a book that drew me in, and left me desperate to write a review to encourage other people to read it.
Was this review helpful?
I would struggle to be able to review this book due to issues with the file/download. The issues stopped the flow of the book. The issues are:
- Missing words in the middle of sentences
- Stop/start sentences on different lines
- No clear definition of chapters. 

Not sure if it was a file/download issue but there were lots of gaps, stop/starts which really ruined the flow. I would love the chance to read a better version as the description of the book appeals to me.
Was this review helpful?
This book resonates with a lot of women.  These Impossible Things tells the story of three women coming to terms with the choices we make, of reconciling love, loss, faith, womanhood and friendship, and how one moment, in a life where everything feels at odds, can change everything.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the comparison between the beginning and the end of this book- Jenna, Kees and Malak have a dynamic that is both relatable and loveable. I adored their banter and the way they are portrayed to be close despite everything they go through. The way they pull back their trio is remarkable and I enjoyed it.
However, (and this is just a personal remark) as a Muslim, I am tired of reading of Muslims who rebel from religion and seem to dislike most aspects. It's tiring to read of my religion like this. It just feels like the characters are trying to assimilate and shun their Muslim identity. Maybe that's why this book isn't for me- I just wanted to read a book that I could relate to and this wasn't it.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved "These Impossible Things", the story of three friends looking for love and at the same time trying to stay true to their faith and beliefs. From the beginning, Malak, Jenna and Kess, three British Muslims, uni friends in a cusp of adulthood, are distinctive characters with different agendas and plans. Chasing all those impossible things they want, they get hurt, fall in love and make mistakes. Their faith is something they have in common, but the the author reminds us that there is no one path you have to follow to be called a good Muslim woman. The book talks a lot about men and misogyny, societal and familial expectations that are put upon women and about compromises and choices we are forced to make. 
Salma El-Wardany writes about all her characters beautifully, but I think Kess's story was the one that struck me the most.  I know you should not have favourites, but the way in which Kess is determined to preserve her faith in face of difficulties  resonated with me the most. I'm do pleased I was able to read this book.
Was this review helpful?