Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion
By Bushra Rehman
Through the drama and the lulls in Razia’s life, chai is the ever-present drink of choice. While we don’t know the recipe that Razia used to make chai for all the loved ones in her life, I can imagine the aunties sipping this Kashmiri Chai as they gossip about the people in their community. Click here to get the recipe from Mirchi Tales, then enjoy a cup as you watch an episode of Days of Our Lives.
** Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the chance to review this book **
There is a Pakistani expression that says, “Turn your face to virtue and your back to vice.” Bushra Rehman’s new book, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is the summation of this sentiment. The book follows Razia, a young Pakistani girl living in the Queens neighborhood of Corona. It is the quintessential coming-of-age story, but one that explores the dichotomy of growing up in a religious community while the broader American values of freedom and independence tug at your existence. Razia’s internal conflict throughout the book revolves around her feeling “too westernized” for many members of her community while also feeling typecast as an immigrant to those outside of the community.
While Rehman’s writing is poetic and inviting, there is a lack of cohesion throughout the book. Each story seems like its own episode, and little is done to tie it together. The chapters finally begin flowing together at the end when Razia starts questioning and exploring her sexuality. After she discovers that she is attracted to her friend, Angela, the book begins focusing on that theme. Some readers might be bothered by the randomness of the plot, but I thought it made the book feel more realistic. Let’s face it– most of our everyday lives do not follow the arc of story elements. Each day brings random events, some of which are predictable and some of which are not. We’re scattered by design.
While I appreciated Rehman’s writing and the insight I gained from Razia’s experiences, I couldn’t connect with this book. Razia’s life is very different from my own, so I can’t envision myself making the same decisions she did, especially at the end of the book. I can, however, understand how she got there. While it might not be for me, I can see Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion being magical for other readers who see themselves represented in the characters of this book. The writing is beautiful, and I wish I could learn more about Razia’s fate as she enters the next chapter of her life. Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion would make a great selection for book clubs. It is sure to drive some lively discussions about the expectations people face both within their families and their communities.
My Rating System Explained 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: This was an amazing book, and I can't stop thinking about it. It impacted me emotionally or changed my perspective. My thoughts keep flickering back to it at random times throughout the day. I will absolutely recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs. 4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: This was a really good book. Parts of it stuck with me, and I might mention it in a conversation. There is a high likelihood that I will recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs. 3 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️: I liked this book. It allowed me to escape from reality for a while. While I might tell somebody about it if I think it will interest them, I will probably not suggest it to one of my book clubs. 2 Stars ⭐️⭐️: There's something about this book that I didn't like. I wasn't willing to go all the way down to a one-star rating, but I'm definitely not digging it. I may recognize that this book is not for me, but it might be for other people. I will not recommend it to my friends or one of my book clubs. 1 Star ⭐️: My rarest rating. I really didn't like this book. Something in the story line upset me, and I probably "hate-read" the majority of the book. Not only will I not recommend it, but I will actively tell people that I did not like it.