The Other Half of Happiness
by Ayisha Malik
Ayisha Malik’s debut, the nicely titled Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (2015), was described in some quarters as the “Muslim Bridget Jones”. You could see why: Sofia’s adventures in Muslim romance (dating, extended families, feminism, self-determination) was catnip for the publishing house she worked at. Malik knows a thing or two about this: she was a successful publisher herself, and is now a successful ghostwriter as well as novelist. The Other Half of Happiness continues Sofia’s journal, although now she sounds like the “Muslim Jane Eyre”: “Reader, I married him,” Sofia begins quoting Charlotte Brontë. “But there was no band of Punjabis, jacked up on lassi. We had one imam and two witnesses listen to me.” Little else in her married Karachi life is predictable. Sofia’s husband is Conall, an Irish convert to Islam, tattoos and all: “Oh my actual God. There’s a man in my bed. A real-life man.” When Sofia is not texting friends for amorous advice (“Jump him!”), she is launching her literary career in London (as a writer and publisher), navigating an overly concerned family and getting married all over again. Malik’s brisk style races between lightness and gravity, and somehow gives her characters credible depth. Charm in a fake diary.