This book looked so promising. A young Lebanese-Canadian girl, Aline, is living the life her parents have always dreamed of for her – a successful college graduate with a job in a big accounting firm, in a steady relationship with a nice, reliable fellow accountant.
Sure, Aline is a little rebellious on the side – she’s not a perfect Muslim girl, since she drinks and has sex with her boyfriend, and her boyfriend is Anglo-Canadian rather than Lebanese, but she’s doing a pretty good job of meeting the expectations of an immigrant family who only want the best for their little girl.
The problem is, Aline hates her job and is so bored in her relationship with Brian that she freezes in terror when he asks her to marry him. As she’s still reeling from that blow, things start to fall apart at work, and Aline takes off with her two best girlfriends, Sophie and Yazmin, on a spur-of-the-moment vacation to Cuba that forces her to confront her worst fears, her true desires, and possibilities she’s never imagined before.
As I said, it’s all great in theory, but in execution the book falls far too often into chicklit cliches, particularly an obsession with fashion and brand-names. This is explained as Aline’s true passion – fashion versus accountancy – but it has the effect of making a potentially interesting heroine come off sounding just as shallow and materialistic as – well, as the heroines of chicklit novels stereotypically do. Does anyone really own forty-six pairs of stilletto heels? REALLY? Also, the writing is a little sloppy in places, producing sentences like “My stomach churned nauseatedly,” which, frankly, is just careless.
Despite its flaws, there’s a charm and appeal to Aline and her story that kept me reading till the happy ending. Still, the possibilities of Aline’s story and the Muslim-immigrant-family-making-it-in-Montreal background that made me feel the novel could have been so much better than it was. I wanted more depth, with fewer stillettos and adverbs. But perhaps this is another case of me critcizing a piece of genre fiction for following the conventions of the genre; maybe I shouldn’t be reading chicklit.