Three times the holiday magic. Three times the chaos.
As strangers and seatmates Maryam Aziz and Anna Gibson fly to Toronto over the holidays—Maryam to her sister’s impromptu wedding, and Anna to meet her boyfriend’s wealthy family for the first time—neither expect that severe turbulence will scare them into confessing their deepest hopes and fears to one another. At least they’ll never see each other again. And the love of Maryam’s life, Saif, wasn’t sitting two rows behind them hearing it all. Oops.
An emergency landing finds Anna, Saif, Maryam, and her sister’s entire bridal party snowbound at the quirky Snow Falls Inn in a picture-perfect town, where fate has Anna’s actor-crush filming a holiday romance. As Maryam finds the courage to open her heart to Saif, and Anna feels the magic of being snowbound with an unexpected new love—both women soon realize there’s no place they’d rather be for the holidays.
I wouldn’t just give this 5 stars. I’d give it 6…or 11…or all the stars in the sky. This is a magical book. It is as classic as It’s a Wonderful Life, full of feels and tears and laughter as we all wish to be part of a time and place like Snow Falls, where the Big 3 Faiths all cross for one glorious and heart-felt celebration.
Maryam and Anna, strangers with completely opposite personalities, get off to a rocky start on the plane to Toronto, but once they are both relocated to Snow Falls due to bad weather, their shared experience on the plane and the confessions they made start them on a friendship that becomes a “ride-or-die” kind of camaraderie. Of course, being relocated to Snow Falls, with no chance of getting to Toronto in time for the events they both have scheduled to within an inch of their lives leads to seismic shifts in their everyday normal. Soon they will be questioning the way they’ve been handling things in their old lives–or namely, not handling, due to not wishing to rock the boat or disappoint others.
Meanwhile both of them have potential for romances under their own noses: Maryam with a childhood friend-turned-hottie who happened to overhear her confession of a childhood crush; and Anna, with a handsome stranger who turns out to be not who she thinks. The romance and tension is delicious and well-written as both couples have to overcome big hurdles and vulnerabilities to make the romance work. But the romance does not take center stage to the transformations each woman makes in changing their lives for the better, by reclaiming themselves and putting themselves first, even as they take care of everyone around them.
One of my favorite lines from the book is where a family friend, Farah, tells Maryam: “It took me a long time to accept that we deserve our happy endings, too, even if they look a little different from what our family imagined for us.” While I’m not the child of immigrant parents, my parents did have expectations of me that allows me to empathize very well with the expectations of desi parents for their children…and the children who have to reckon with those expectations. The other favorite line from the book is from the grandfather, who is a widower, speaking about grief and life after you’ve lost someone you love very much: “You have to take happiness as it comes to you, while accepting that grief will always live with you too.” Oh, how true those words are. I cried no less than three times while reading various parts of this book. It’s a rom-com, but oh, so emotional.
The book is full of the best emotional payoffs you want in a story–the romance, the sweet over-the-top gestures–it has it all. It has complications where you worry our heroines will go back to what is easy–but then delivers when they do the right, hard thing and it all comes out as it should. It’s marvelous. I believe this will go on my keeper shelf to be re-read each December…when I need to be reminded we can be all good, kind people who accept each other just for being who we were meant to be. Please add it to your TBR pile–or Santa list. You won’t regret it.