“He brought up her old scars again, and now he couldn’t leave them on the shelf like books to gather dust.”
The Name of Red by Beena Khan
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, #OwnVoices
Setting: New York, USA
Published: 15th May 2020
Purchase: Kindle for $1.23
Goodreads Summary: “Two strangers on the same path. Survivors. Companions. They will be each other’s salvation.
On a rainy, winter night, a mysterious woman in a red dress seeking shelter comes inside the restaurant Kabir was busy working in —primarily the bar— and night after night, drink after drink, she comes back to the same spot. That is where he sees her for the first time.
Hundreds of patrons around her try to speak with her daily, but she dismisses them. It appears she wants to remain in a blissful peace alone with her booze and books. After seeing the mysterious woman reading a book, and because of his shy nature, Kabir gains entrance into her life by anonymously leaving books with notes for her.
The Name of Red is the story of two strangers, two different personalities who meet on a winter, rainy night who challenge each other. They have a connection which blossoms into a friendship due to their fondness of books. But they both have secrets that can bind them together or threaten their newfound relationship forever.”
I want to thank the author, Beena Khan, for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Name of Red is a slow burn romance that will make your heart sing and add Kabir to the list of your book boyfriends.
Me: “The perfect man doesn’t exist.”
Kabir: “Hold my beer.”
I was around the 75% mark when I realised that I was essentially reading a Nicholas Sparks novel. Red, our heroine, and Kabir, our love interest, teasingly play a game of will-they-won’t-they? that, at times, will keep you at the edge of your seat, but, at other times, will frustrate you to no end because you just need to know. And when you find out, a spanner is thrown in the works that will have you glaring at your screen, but, ultimately, leave you feeling bittersweet.
By the end, I, also, fell in love with Aryan, Kabir’s friend and bartender at the restaurant Kabir owns, and I wanted to know more about what happens to him once the story ends. He’s a tough nut, practical, down-to-earth, humble and likable with a tragic backstory. I wanted to know even more about him. What happens to him afterwards? Perhaps this could be book two?
My minor complaint is that, though the pacing was brilliant and left me glued to the screen, certain parts could be cut for length and did feel like filler. As well as this, it took a long time to get to the reveal, but the book surprised me with another bonus twist at the end.
The chemistry between Red and Kabir – A Bookworm’s Dream
Get you someone with a large library who’s more than happy to leave you a book every night you frequent their bar. Kabir is pretty much the South Asian version of Obinze from Americanah, so as you can imagine, I, of course, fell in love with him. Who wouldn’t? A dreamy reserved aura, a voracious reader, and a kind, thoughtful and intelligent man. Kabir is, quite literally, perfect. Whereas, Red is outspoken, chaotic, sensual, bold and… sometimes a little cringe. Their friendship is so sweet, their chemistry is undeniable, and it’s endearing how easily Kabir blushes. It did take me a while to warm to Red, and her comparison to Kabir’s childhood friend, Nadia, did set my guard up against Red because I imagined her to be colourist. With Red possessing more Eurocentric features which is described as “classic” good looks and Nadia boasting more traditional South Asian looks, the comparison was concerning wherein I believed that only a tragic backstory could slightly mollify me. It was only until a darker skinned woman was complimented that I thought, “Alright, fine… this isn’t colourist, but I’m still worried that Eurocentric features are defined as the standard of beauty.” Ultimately, it is an accurate reflection of the standard of beauty typically found within my culture, scratch that, in the world*, and we are finally starting to make progress in unlearning inherited ideas of beauty.
Regardless, I loved Red and Kabir’s story, and you’ll find yourself rooting for the pair.
Addiction, Feminism and Deep Religious Discussions
Both Kabir and Red share a difficult past with Red shouldering a grief so heavy that results in her succumbing to the pleasures of drinking to numb the pain. I thought it was especially important to explore this aspect. Of course, I know some Muslims do drink, but I thought it was interesting to navigate alcohol addiction and its effects. What I really loved about this book are the fascinating conversations Red and Kabir have on alcoholism, feminism and what makes a Muslim a ‘Muslim’, and both come away with enlightened perspectives. I didn’t always agree with some of the opinions, but I completely agree that, when casting judgement on our Muslim brothers and sisters, a fine distinction needs to be drawn between the ‘sin’ and the ‘sinner’ which Beena Khan manages to achieve in ‘The Name of Red’. It’s wonderful how Kabir and Red can easily connect on a deeper level, and, yet, manage to have fun doing it! It encourages you, the reader, to answer these questions yourself too.
“People sin in different ways, but it doesn’t mean they’re evil or corrupt.”
Another brilliant depiction in ‘The Name of Red’ is that it reminds us that healing isn’t linear, and that when we finally open up about what we’re dealing with, it doesn’t always instantaneously make us feel better. Healing is a long process, sometimes it takes an entire lifetime or a significant chunk of our time, and it isn’t a linear process either. But ‘The Name of Red’ recognises the importance of fully immersing yourself in your emotions, rinsing it out before you can even place a plaster on the scar for your wounds to heal. Each character, Kabir, Red and Aryan, all deal with their own grief and trauma – and all in very different ways – that they have to come to grips with. It moves beyond romance and friendship, and at the core of it, it’s about dealing with our own personal demons. Beena Khan showcases a brilliance in sinking into the teeth of her characters, an ability I can only imagine her experience as a therapist has lent credence to.
‘Crutch Word’ and Pop Culture References that I ACTUALLY Enjoyed
There is one word the author, Beena Khan, is fond of: “Toothily.” Every chapter or so, you can catch Red flashing a “toothy” smile at Kabir.
Another great thing about ‘The Name of Red’ is the countless references to books. My absolute favourite reference is that Red’s favourite book is ‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah. As well as this was the reference to Jay Sean’s classic song, ‘Ride It’, only my fellow South Asian readers will get this. I was over the moon because I used to love this song, though, let’s be real, ‘Down’ is Jay Sean’s best song! I was 100% smiling “toothily” at all these brilliant references, it’s been one of the few times that I’ve actually enjoyed multiple pop culture references in a book which is rare for me.
Overall, I would recommend ‘The Name of Red’ to anyone who’s a fan of slow burn, friends to lovers and opposites attract romances and to readers who enjoy stories dealing with trauma recovery.
About the Author: Beena Khan – Therapist | Blogger | Artist
Beena Khan lives in a suburb in Queens, New York in her apartment. She is 27 years old from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. She is an immigrant who moved to New York when she was five years old. She currently holds a master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Cuny School of Professional Sciences. She enjoys reading, writing and netflixing. This is her debut novel. She loves hearing from people, and you can find her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for upcoming releases and further book news.
I am now taking review requests from marginalised authors, primarily black and POC authors, in any genre except Sci-Fi and Horror.
What are your thoughts on slow burn romances? Do you prefer friends-to-loves or enemies-to-lovers? What are some South Asian romances that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!
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