Literary fiction is a genre I really enjoy but haven’t read a lot of lately. When Beena Khan told me about her debut novel, The Name of Red, I was excited to read it. I could tell that this literary fiction novel had a heavy dose of romance, which I am all about. This was an excellent debut novel, though imperfect, I think I’ll be a lifelong fan of Beena Khan’s books and her excellent characters.
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Two strangers on the same path.
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.
This book has South Asian and middle eastern characters. It revolves around literary fiction, contemporary, friendship, relationships, addiction, multicultural romance, feminism, and cultural diversity.
The Name of Red is a mostly dual POV book (we do see another POV for a brief chapter) about Red and Kabir. Red is a mysterious woman, whose name we don’t discover for a few chapters, who shows up at Kabir’s bar night after night. Kabir is instantly enthralled. He notices her reading and drinking at the bar, never talking to other patrons, so he begins leaving her books. Their courtship begins with notes in books, which is swoon-worthy to the extreme.
Finally, Red has enough and seeks Kabir out. The two become friends and so much more. I can’t say too much without giving away the plot of the novel, which is very much based on the characters and their struggles, particularly Red. Kabir has been through quite a bit in his life, but Red has especially struggled, and so she has her guard up. It takes ages for the two finally to kiss, and when they do it’s steamy and beautiful. This is a slow burn worth waiting for.
Though my description makes this sound like a romance, it is not. This is a drama, a work of literary fiction. It is angsty and pulls at your heartstrings in the best of ways. Red was a hard character for me to like at times, and I felt Kabir was a saint for putting up with and loving her, but her reason for being that way makes sense. Every time I grew frustrated with her, I learned more about her character and I understood.
Khan’s writing style is certainly evocative of literary fiction. At times, she repeats ideas, but it is done in a way that seems to have poetic intention, even if that’s not a technique I’m crazy about. What really stood out to me were her characters. She even made me consider sympathizing – just a little bit, mind you – with the bad guys in this one. Even though we really only see two POVs, it’s evident that every character has drives and emotions.
Overall, this was a great debut. I’m excited for book two in this series, and I see from the author’s Amazon page that she has even more books in this series in the works! This one gets a solid 4 stars from me. Thank you to Beena Khan for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I greatly enjoyed this debut novel! It was angsty and full of heartfelt emotion, more of a drama than a romance. Red is a character I will always remember, and Kabir is an angel. I look forward to part two of this duology. Look for my full review at bitchbookshelf.com on July 2!
P. S. The Name of Red is free to read with Kindle Unlimited. Check out Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans to score this and other great reads for free. You can thank me later.