I first stumbled upon author Sabaa Tahir when her fantasy series An Ember in the Ashes was suggested to me. While this book review does not cover that series it was fabulous and I have since suggested it to those interested in the fantasy genre. So when Tahir released a standalone book in 2022 I knew I had to read it, and I am so glad that I did. Something that has drawn me to Tahir is her prose. Tahir is an author that can invoke in readers the emotions that her characters are experiencing, possessing a talent for bringing to life emotions that typically can only be felt. That being said, Tahir’s writing might not be for every reader as she does not shy away from “negative” emotions or topics; on the contrary, she explores them, putting them right in your face, and makes you listen. All My Rage follows two Pakistani American high school students as they navigate trauma and healing, and how to do so together.
Misbah is from Lahore, Pakistan, where she married as a young woman before her and her new husband immigrated to California to experience the American Dream. Misbah’s dream comes to life when they become owners of a motel, which she names The Cloud’s Rest Motel. Misbah takes care of the motel and the finances as her husband struggles with alcoholism. Misbah’s passions are the motel and her son, Salahudin, and Salahudin’s best friend, Noor.
Salahudin (Sal) has never entirely fit in with his fellow students until, in elementary school, a new student walks into his class: Noor. Noor is like him, a Pakistani American struggling to make friends and find a place in the world. This instantly draws the two together and they become as close as family until high school when they have The Fight. Now they aren’t talking and everything is going wrong. When tragedy strikes Sal is faced with an impossible situation that brings Noor back into his life.
Noor moved to America when she was 6 years old following a tragedy that put her in the care of her uncle, who owns a liquor store in California. Noor finds kinship with Sal, a fellow outsider, and Misbah, who is like a mother to her. Despite this Noor struggles to both be accepted and fit into the culture around her, yearning for the culture she never got to fully experience in Pakistan. Noor’s uncle is impossibly strict, and when Sal and Noor get into The Fight, Noor is left feeling completely alone, even cutting communication with Misbah. When Sal attempts to save The Cloud’s Rest Motel Noor is caught in the backlash, forcing both of them to discover what friendship is worth.
All My Rage is narrated by these three complex characters, jumping to the past for Misbah’s narration, and the present for Sal and Noor’s. All three characters are simultaneously reeling from the tragedies of their past while facing down the tragedies of their present. Intermixed they are also finding love and friendship. Sal and Noor have a friendship that, even in the wake of The Fight, runs deep, providing moments of hope and laughter within the novel. The novel highlights, among many other things, the struggles individuals who immigrate and their children can go through, and how dark life can be. Yet within that darkness Tahir also provides light, layering devastation with a story that is truly moving.
Note: If you are considering reading All My Rage I suggest looking at the content warnings before reading.
Review by Sarah Turner-Hill, Adult Programming Coordinator