The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters

Being Bangladeshi, I was excited about this book! The author, not only shared the same heritage, but was going to delve into the dynamics that reside within a typical Bangladeshi family.

The text itself is an incredibly easy read, leaving little to the imagination and would be aimed at young adults due to the nature of the topics.

The story is based on a large Bangladeshi family made up of 5 siblings; Fatima (Fatti), Farah, Bubblee, Jahingheer (Jay) and Mae. The names are not typically Bangladeshi, which was surprising considering they were first generation Brits.

Each chapter provides an insight into the different lives of one of the sisters. Fatima is a 30 year old overweight hand model, who serially fails her driving test . Bubblee is 28 and seems to be the most rebellious of the group . She decided to leave the family home and move to London to pursue a career in art. Her twin sister, Farah, contrastingly, married her cousin and lives the idealised life of a lady of leisure. And Mae, is a 16 year old social media obsessed teen.

Jay, the pedastalled son, remains a bit of an enigma. He lives intentionally exiled from the family but manages to uphold a familial reverence. Later on in the book, his betrayal to his own family is introduced. However, without understanding Jay’s world, I felt dumbfounded by his decisions.

There were areas where characters required further development, which was clear when I felt the lack of connection and sympathy whilst serious issues were at play. I also found myself failing to recognise the character from the text and having to flick back to the beginnning of the chapter to grab the name.

There were a large number of issues thrown in together, at times without any background, and only superficially grasped by the characters themselves. Some of those themes include; an almost comatose death, fertility issues, adoption, self esteem, theft, financial issues, weight, social media and relationships.

After reading I had the following unanswered questions; Why did the brother leave the family? Why was Farah giving her family money as her brother? Why did Farah’s husband hire their brother? Why did his wife, the sister, only find out a year later? And why was Fatima disregarded by her adopted family? And these are just a few.

Writing a book with the hue from a specific culture isn’t easy and I didn’t expect to glow with nostalgia at any reference. However, I did feel more could have been captured to paint life in a Bangladeshi household.

This book made me appreciate reading about characters that I can share a culture and heritage. It’s easy to dismiss how much of our very thought we can attribute directly to our upbringing and the beliefs of those who raised us. With such characters, I share a present world view coloured by a similar past.