An Emotion of Great Delight follows Shadi, who wears hijab, in the aftermath of 9/11. Part of the Muslim community that is targeted and harassed now more than ever, Shadi is already busy drowning in her personal sorrow to find time to deal with the haters. With her brother dead, her father dying, her mother falling apart and her best friend ignoring and belittling her, Shadi is at the end of her rope. As she tries to navigate her crumbling world, she searches for that little glimpse of hope to keep her going. And it appears – but not in the way she imagined.
I have so many conflicting emotions about this book. A huge devotee of Mafi’s Shatter Me series and Furthermore duology, I was dying to get my hands on this book. And while I did enjoy reading it, I also couldn’t help but feel frustrated. Much of the plot relies on miscommunication and Shadi hiding the truth not only from herself but from the reader as well. It created a disconnect that I couldn’t ever really bridge as a reader. I felt for her, I wanted to protect her, but I never felt like I knew her, if that makes sense.
I also was not sold on the romance. This might be because I have read Mafi’s Shatter Me series more than a dozen times in my life, but the drama and certain phrasings of Shadi and Ali were just so similar to the pairing in that series that I kept shaking my head because most of Mafi’s romances include drama – and we love that – but here it was just too similar for me to enjoy the level of miscommunication and avoidance Shadi and Ali have between them. There is a lot of back and forth and whenever they get even the tiniest bit closer to being open and honest with each other, something prevents that from happening. Of course, this drives up the tension and anticipation, but it also made the animosity between them feel inauthentic considering the time jumps and them behaving pretty much the same in both timelines.
I think my biggest issue with this book was that I didn’t see the endgame. There are all these great elements in An Emotion of Great Delight – discussions of unhealthy and broken friendships, trauma, grief, loss, representation of characters that wear hijabi and how people react to it, family relationships and envy. There are fantastic scenes dedicated to these topics – from the terrifying fear of being a Muslim American in the early 2000s to the crushing impact the loss of a child can have on parents – but they never really tied together. I wished we would have gotten deeper into Shadi’s relationships with her family members, that we would have seen more of her and her brother before everything went downhill. I loved so many single instances of this book but I kept waiting for that moment where all of these elements would intertwine and be given some sort of resolution. Similarly, the novel stops so unexpectedly and with so many plot strands still unresolved that I questioned whether I had the full version or whether there was going to be a sequel. Indeed, only the romance plot is somewhat resolved whereas more prominent discussions like Shadi‘s family situation is left open to interpretation. I’m not opposed to open endings but I found myself wishing for some sort of indication of what would happen once the book ended.
That being said, Mafi still shines with beautiful, lyrical writing. It’s one element that is included in every one of her novels and it always draws you back into the story. The way Mafi describes the simplest daily tasks, evokes gorgeous imagery in the most ordinary emotions always baffles me. I also loved that, no matter how dark Shadi’s life got, there was always a glimpse of hope, tiny though it may have been. Mafi tackles tough topics in An Emotion of Great Delight, but just like the title promises, delight is waiting at some point in the future. It’s the getting there that is hard, but it will be rewarded. So, despite the loose plot and my struggle with the romance, I still think that people will devour this book and revel in Mafi’s impeccable writing style.
Written with unparalleled talent, An Emotion of Great Delight explores the loneliness of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11 and dives deep into discussions of identity, grief, and finding hope in the darkest of times.
Will you be picking up An Emotion of Great Delight? Tell us in the comments below!
Synopsis | Goodreads
From bestselling and National Book Award–nominated author Tahereh Mafi comes a stunning novel about love and loneliness, navigating the hyphen of dual identity, and reclaiming your right to joy—even when you’re trapped in the amber of sorrow.
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—
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.
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.