You may think I’m crazy, but I’ve always thought that I’d love to skip the whole dating thing and just be friends with someone and get married. Don’t get me wrong. Romance is beautiful and I love a good Christian romance novel. But I’m also a fan of the real-life love story. You know, the one that doesn’t quite happen in the order our culture thinks it “should.” A romance could develop after a marriage just as much as before. We see countless examples from Scripture and throughout history. (As for my own story, we’ll have to see…God’s still writing it!) But I think that was part of what led me to put First Comes Marriage on my Kindle two years ago .
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Do you also you enjoy a story where marriage is a choice before it is a “feeling?” If so, you’ll appreciate Chautona Havig’s Marriages of Conviction books!
Of course, I have a LOT of books on my Kindle. So this one sat there until I pulled it up on my day off this week. It was hard to put down! I finished it in a day, and couldn’t wait to come share this real-life love story.
About the Book:
Author: Huda Al-Marashi
Theme: Love & marriage, culture clash
Blurb: A candid, heartfelt love story set in contemporary California that challenges the idea of what it means to be American, liberated, and in love. When Huda meets Hadi, the boy she will ultimately marry, she is six years old. Both are the American-born children of Iraqi immigrants, who grew up on opposite ends of California. Hadi considers Huda his childhood sweetheart, the first and only girl he’s ever loved, but Huda needs proof that she is more than just the girl Hadi’s mother has chosen for her son. She wants what many other American girls have—the entertainment culture’s almost singular tale of chance meetings, defying the odds, and falling in love. She wants stolen kisses, romantic dates, and a surprise proposal. As long as she has a grand love story, Huda believes no one will question if her marriage has been arranged.
Tender, honest and irresistibly compelling, First Comes Marriage is the first Muslim-American memoir dedicated to the themes of love and sexuality. Huda and Hadi’s story brilliantly circles around a series of firsts, chronicling two virgins moving through their first everything: first hand holding, first kiss, and first sexual encounter. First Comes Marriage is an almost unbearably humanizing tale that tucks into our hearts and lingers in our imagination, while also challenging long-standing taboos within the Muslim community and the romantic stereotypes we unknowingly carry within us that sabotage some of our best chances for finding true love.
My Review of this Real-Life Love Story:
I don’t naturally gravitate to memoir (I’m not sure why, but apparently this is the summer of reading them anyways!). But First Comes Marriage was so expertly woven that I might have forgotten this was memoir. This real-life love story is definitely not your typical American love story either. Typical is overrated!
Since I did not grow up in an Iraqi-American family, I loved the inside look at Huda’s upbringing. But I also appreciated seeing how her perception of that upbringing changed over time. I also loved the peeks into the variety and diversity of Muslim American experiences throughout the story.
My Christian readers will appreciate Huda’s conservative background, even if our own teenage and young adult years looked different. And you’ll appreciate the struggle between culture and faith, between identifying how God wants us to live and the rules and expectations of society and culture and family. Those of us who have wrestled to find a healthy view of sexuality post-purity culture will appreciate Huda’s struggle as well.
I think I was most impressed with the vulnerability and honesty Huda applied to her reflections on her past self. And I love the hope at the end of the story. “True love” and a healthy marriage aren’t dependent on having some flashy story, or even having the romance before the wedding. Love is a choice.
I laughed out loud. I cried (when you get to the parts about the students in the Internado and especially how they changed Huda’s home life you’ll see what I mean). And at the end of the day, I think if Huda and I met, we’d be friends. I definitely recommend First Comes Marriage.