Book reviews,  Books

Book Review: A Woman Is No Man – Etaf Rum



Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naive and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children – four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.


Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s instance, though her only desire is to go to college. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man.

Favourite Quote from the book:

Too often being happy means being passive or playing it safe. There’s no skill required in happiness, no strength of character, nothing extraordinary. It’s discontent that drives creation the most – passion, desire, defiance. Revolutions don’t come from a place of happiness. If anything, I think it’s sadness, or discontent or at least, that’s at the root of everything beautiful.

Etaf Rum, A Woman is No Man

Personal Opinion and Experience:

A Woman is No Man is a book that throws light on the subtle as well as extensive gender biases that women around the world go through every day. The story initially starts with two, but is eventually spread over three generations of women, each of them struggling with their own inner conflicts and fragilities. It shows how the world might feel it’s ever evolving but in fact, the growth over three generations of women was deficient at eliminating the countless biases rooted into the culture. The book reveals how sexism is simply sheltered from one generation to the other, using precedents that are constantly trying in vain to indicate a progressive mindset.

What I loved about the book:

I personally loved the way the culture was so definably described, each of the scenes felt particularly graphic. There was an assortment of culinary descriptions, I could feel my mouth water every now and then. There was an element of surprise throughout the book. I loved how the plot moved from one story to another, simultaneously linking the narratives of all the women. It portrayed the story from various perspectives, showing exactly how prejudice passes from one generation to another with gradual developments in each. The plot was spun over a mystery and I kept wanting to know what would happen next. It was not just a narrative, it was a thrilling read and I had goosebumps every time a new scenario was introduced. The ends of most of the chapters felt like cliff-hangers, including the last one. I loved how the story had such an unestablished end and yet, you know exactly what happened.

What I felt were drawbacks of the book:

The two drawbacks I experienced – I couldn’t connect much to the character of Fareeda. It could’ve possibly been the generation gap, but I found it really difficult to empathise with her character. The scenes might have been a little repetitive here and there, but I think that it was trying to portray the harsh regularity in a woman’s life. However, the book overall compensates for that.

Favourite character:

My favourite character in the book is Sarah. She plays the role of an aunt to Deya and her sisters, the daughter of Fareeda and sister-in-law to Isra. She has been a constant upliftment with every part that she plays. Her character was the one I most connected with. She is a depiction of rebellion and at the same time, she understands how rebellion is not always the answer.

Is this book for you:

You will immensely connect to this book if you are emotionally invested in feminism and the issues of gender bias and cultures rooted in the inequality of women. If you’re looking for a heavy-hearted read, there are some very strong excerpts and concepts in the book, which I’m sure would bring you to tears, or at least, make your heart heavy at the mere thought of what the character is having to go through. If you’re looking for cliff-hangers and social-issues embodied in one book, this is the read for you. If you’re into good, contemporary reads – this one’s for you. Lastly, if you’ve been a huge fan of Khaled Hosseini’s works, I bet you’ll love Etaf Rum as well. This is not a book for women; this is a book for everybody.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

If you would like to read this title, here are the Amazon India links where you can purchase this book:

Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

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Reflection prompt: What are your views on gender equality – do you think we’re really making progress out there in the world?

Love and virtual hugs,

Ri ✨

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