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Pickle Me This

April 15, 2021

Accidentally Engaged, by Farah Heron

I could not have loved Farah Heron’s sophomore novel Accidentally Engaged any more—I was already besotted by the end of the first paragraph when we first encounter Reena’s sourdough starter, whose name is Brian (obviously). It’s a very pandemicky novel actually, not in content in the slightest, but instead it’s wonderfully cozy, video content is important, and there is so much fresh baked bread. Which is what brings Reena and Nadim together in the first place, the aroma drifting from her apartment across the hall to where he’s just moved in. The attraction between them is instantaneous, but Reena can’t act on it—it turns out her overbearing parents have Nadim in mind as a potential husband for her, and she refuses to let them play this role in her life. And so she and Nadim become friends instead, as well as neighbours. They’re compatible, share the same East African background, and he sure loves her bread. And so when an opportunity comes along for Reena to make her cooking show dreams come true as part of a couples contest, she agrees to let Nadim pretend to be her fiance—but the whole thing is just an act. Or is it?

I loved this novel. Heron’s debut, The Chai Factor, was great, but this follow-up is even better, polished and so deftly plotted. (We also get to meet up with Amira and Duncan again in this book, as Reena is Amira’s best friend.) The humour is spot-on and so very fresh, and the complicated dynamic between Reena and Nadim is drawn out just the right amount, enough to be intriguing, not so much as to be preposterous. There’s a lot of cross-cultural romance going on in fiction right now, with books like The Chai Factor and Jane Igharo’s Ties That Tether, and so it was interesting for me to read a book where both characters come from the same background and even then the course of true love does not run smooth.

Heron challenges conventional notions of Muslim women—they have sex!—and Muslim families once again this second novel, and she writes beautifully about Reena’s pride in her identity as an Indian woman: “Reena loved being Indian. Loved the food, the glittery clothes, and today, she even loved the deep-seated traditions. Like sari shopping with aunties.”

This novel is such a delight.

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