book review – an emotion of great delight by tahereh mafi

i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

Book Cover

An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.
She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.
Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart –
It’s broken.
Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.
She explodes.
An Emotion of Great Delight is a searing look into the world of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11. It’s about a child of immigrants forging a blurry identity, falling in love, and finding hope–in the midst of a modern war.

trigger warnings: self harm, depression, death

i’ve seen muslim reviewers point out problematic comments regarding islam that were made in this book. despite my personal enjoyment, their opinion on this is much more important, so please give their reviews a read: imman’s review | dana’s review | hind’s review

i’d thought, for so long, that this pain i clenched every day in my fist would be my sole possession, all i ever carried for the rest of my life. i’d forgotten i had two hands.

an emotion of great delight by tahereh mafi

i don’t really have a habit of studying the blurb before reading a book, but i am glad i did this time around, because with a title like an emotion of great delight, one would expect the book to be filled with positive feelings – joy, excitement, and the like. well… not quite. shadi, our protagonist, has to deal with the death of her brother, her dad’s hospitalization, her mom’s depression, conflict with her ex-best friend, and the aftermath of 9/11. long story short, it was a bad time.

i’ll be straight-up honest: this book did not have much of a plot. it felt like we were thrust into a random chapter of shadi’s life and given the opportunity to spectate for a while. however, the storytelling definitely made up for it. this is my first tahereh mafi book – there, i said it – despite its popularity in the bookish community, i have never read the shatter me series. in spite of this being my first time reading mafi’s work, i can immediately see that there’s something special about her writing: it draws the reader in and leaves them wanting more even after the last page. the heart-wrenching prose is crafted with such care and meticulousness: even though the reader’s encounter with shadi is brief, the rawness and beauty in the way her grief and frustration are captured on paper creates a connection which allowed me to truly feel for her.

the ending, however, felt a little abrupt and left me with many questions – what happens next? is shadi ever going to forgive her dad? how does shadi’s ex-best friend, zahra, feel about her brother and shadi getting together all of a sudden? after building up so much tragedy in the earlier parts of the story, i found the author’s choice to leave the ending ambiguous a little underwhelming.

overall, did i like the author’s writing? yes. did i like the plot? no, because it was practically non-existent. is this a sad book? a definite yes. is this a good book? yes if we’re only looking at how much i enjoyed it, not so much if we are also considering its content.

have you read an emotion of great delight? what were your thoughts? let me know in the comments below 🙂


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