“A Good Wife” – Samra Zafar (4/5 ★)

This book & Samra’s story is such an important one portraying abusive relationships, as well as the dangers of strict (religious) traditions, such as arranged marriages. While reading it, you manage to live through that suffocating feeling of being trapped & at times, it even sounds like something out of a horror movie. The most terrifying thing about it though, is the fact that this is a true story. Not only of this one woman, but of so many other people who are stuck in abusive relationships. 

To me personally, it once again underlined the negative sides of hyper-religious beliefs and what the harmful effects of those are. Dictating to women that they’re only worthy when they “build” a family, become a wife & have children; painting divorce as a complete taboo, preaching that education is a thing destined for men, that women don’t have a right to their own voice, instead of speaking up they’re supposed to stay silent and obedient. Additionally to that, Samra’s tale makes you understand your privilege and to include it in the list of things to be thankful for on a daily basis. Of having the freedom of choice for your education, your partners, whether you want to get married or have children and for being able to define the path of your life completely out of your own free will. 

There was one question that stayed open for me after reading though, since it wasn’t elaborated in the book. Samra had 3 other sisters, none of whom got forced into an arranged marriage. Was she the one who had to suffer through it, because she was the oldest one? Or was it her drive to go to university & her parents thinking that this man she was getting married off to would surely be able to provide it for her (since him & his family promised it)? Was it the hope of a better life for her if she were to move to Canada instead of staying in Pakistan or the UAE? It also left me wondering whether she blames her parents for putting her through such a catastrophic marriage, making the decision for her at an age where she wasn’t in the head space to be able to insist on her own opinion.

In the epilogue, I completely agree with Samra’s recap of what can be done to shape the future for young people:

“But what can we do to prevent abuse before it starts? I believe the answer lies in education, providing everyone with a knowledge of what abuse looks like and how one can find oneself in an abusive relationship. We also need to teach people how to prevent themselves or loved ones from becoming victims. This means teaching our children that they are worthy of love, respect and belonging. It means educating them about healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, early signs of abusive behaviours and tendencies.” (p. 330)

Why just 4 out of 5 stars? I thought that the story itself is incredibly valuable, as well as it is extremely brave for the author to have told it so openly & with so much honesty. What I was missing was something more special from the side of the writing, which is understandable in the circumstances. The most important point for Samra was to bring her story across to a broader public, which was done with a co-writer. This doesn’t make it any less enjoyable though (besides a couple of typos in the text that have slipped through the editing process & made it into the published version of the book), it simply personally doesn’t fill out the 5 out of 5 star range for me. 
I would strongly suggest this book to people who are curious about non-European traditions, to be able to dive into foreign family structures, to understand inter-dependencies among family members in different cultures from ones own, as well as to experience a heart-felt & extremely personal tale of the victim’s side of abusive relationships.

★★★★☆ (4/5)

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