First, let us acknowledge Shamim Sharif not only for her book, but for her book’s title. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m still amused by I Can’t Think Straight.
I Can’t Think Straight is written through the alternating viewpoints of British-Indian Leyla, an aspiring writer, and Palestinian Tala, four-times-engaged and quickly becoming a headache for her traditional Middle Eastern family.
Sharif’s book was made into a movie, and it’s easy to imagine why: the dialogue and characters contain certain cinematic elements – perhaps mostly due to their comedic moments. The ‘cast’ of the book is likewise cinematically large, with Tala especially having siblings and in-laws ad infinitum, but even the supporting characters are well-developed. I never had difficultly remembering who was whom, which is a general sign of good writing.
This book deals a lot with cultural differences and how those differences affect people’s views of Tala and Leyla’s love. Sharif clearly understands both cultures she writes about, as well as how Western and Eastern values clash. From clothes to attitudes regarding finances to casual Anti-Semitism, Sharif’s characters bring the reader into a complicated and diverse world. Enough is explained, in necessary circumstances, for a clueless reader to never be lost.
Generally I’m wary of books in which lesbian women need to accept themselves and come to terms for their sexual orientations. However, this book is always optimistic, never depressing, and Sharif can throw comedy even into the more dramatic moments. It’s a quick, easy read that left me smiling.