It takes courage, patience, and hard work to sustain a romantic commitment – if you are brave enough to make one. There are no “happily ever afters,” except in fairy tales.
Love from Mecca to Medina, the sequel to Love from A to Z, is no fairy tale. It’s the story of a young couple – Adam and Zayneb – trying to make their long-distance marriage work while he works in Doha and she studies in Chicago. When they decide to take a pilgrimage together to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, long-simmering tensions become too obvious to ignore.
This exploration of young love and its tribulations sits well against the backdrop of a religious journey, for both divine and romantic love hold the potential to transform lives. When Adam and Zayneb find themselves in personal and professional dilemmas, it is religious wisdom that lights their way forward.
Alternately narrated by Adam and Zayneb – and sometimes by their cat, Bertha Fatima – the story swings back and forth in time to provide context for the pair’s motivations and insecurities.
Though love makes it into the title, the novel is about far more than the challenges of being in a romantic relationship. Campus politics, housing woes, financial stress, mental health, unemployment, disability, social injustice, racism, prejudice, and bigotry all form the everyday challenges faced by Adam, Zayneb, and their friends.
S.K. Ali’s relatable characters, lively dialogue, clever plotting, and well-paced narrative illustrate just how fiercely talented she is as a storyteller. Whether it is Adam’s Doha or Zayneb’s Chicago or the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, Ali brings these places to life with her vivid descriptions and crisp prose. Islamic culture and parlance is expertly threaded into the narrative. As she tracks the crests and troughs of this love story, Ali skilfully packs in the history and religious significance of the two ancient cities.
In her author’s note, Ali says she writes the stories she wanted to read when she was younger: stories that reflect her life experiences, her world, and her Muslim self. While she succeeds in doing so, the universal themes of love, faith, and personal growth explored in Love from Mecca to Medina also make the novel relatable to young adults of all cultures.