DEBUT New Year's Eve 2018: Nur is back home in Birmingham to celebrate the holidays with his Pakistani family and to tell them about the Black Sudanese girlfriend he has kept secret from them for four years. Nur first met Yasmina at a party hosted by his ex-girlfriend when both were in university—he studying English literature and aspiring to become a writer, she taking journalism. Over the next four years, they move in together in Nottingham for Yasmina's PhD. But tensions mount as Yasmina is open with her family about their relationship while Nur keeps her a secret from his. After disappointing his parents by leaving home for university, he anticipates a greater clash with his family's values over his choice of girlfriend. VERDICT There is something of a Sally Rooney vibe to this story about twentysomethings navigating adult waters (the snappy dialogue, the conflicted emotions, the relationship dramas), but Ali's novel veers off on a darker course as questions of race and culture threaten to undermine a once solid love. This timely, savvy novel is recommended.—Barbara Love
A debut novel that suggests the term "star-crossed romance" may just be a way of pinning on the innocent cosmos the damage we do ourselves, without meaning to.
Nur is a young Brit, eldest son in a close-knit family of Pakistani immigrants. As the novel begins on New Year's Eve, he is about to spill the news to his parents that he has, for the last four years, been seeing a woman—has for the last two of those been living with her, secretly—and that he intends to marry her. Yasmina is charming, self-possessed, lovely, intelligent, a Ph.D. student with a bright future; she's also the child of immigrants, also a practicing Muslim. But Nur's announcement has been long-delayed, and it feels guilty and furtive and fraught, an occasion for anxiety rather than joy. So why the hesitation, the cloak-and-dagger—why the lies? Because Yasmina's family is Sudanese, and Nur worries about his family's response to her Blackness. The rest of the book moves backward to depict, uncomfortably but effectively, the private history that's led to Nur's announcement and moves forward to explore the implications of his delay and reluctance for his relationships with both his family and Yasmina. The backward-looking part of the book has the plot of conventional romance; the forward-looking part, which explores the aftermath of Nur's announcement (built largely around his dithery way of arranging a first meeting between his parents and Yasmina's), is fresher and more compelling. In the tradition of Spike Lee's film School Daze, Ali's novel explores the ways that racism may do its insidious damage even among those who are traditionally not its targets and victims. Despite Nur's sense that he's impeccably right-minded and anti-racist, despite the fact that he truly loves Yasmina and wants to make his life with her, his insistence on putting off and putting off telling his family about his beloved may be less a realist's acknowledgment of the racism in the world than a kind of accommodation of or even collusion with it.
An exploration of the ways that race and family ties may complicate or imperil romance even if everyone means well.
One of the most eagerly awaited debuts of 2022 . . . Exploring race, romance, and mental health problems with disarming candor . . . [Good Intentions] is a rather clever novel about vulnerability and victimhood that subtly subverts the reader's expectations.”
—The Times (UK)
"A love story full of hard choices and tensions, family obligations and racial prejudices. Not to be missed by fans of Modern Love."
"Alluring . . . [A] thoughtful portrait of young people weighing the bonds of tradition with personal identity. Readers will root for this imperfect love until the end."
"There is something of a Sally Rooney vibe to this story about twentysomethings navigating adult waters (the snappy dialogue, the conflicted emotions, the relationship dramas) . . . This timely, savvy novel is recommended."
“Kasim Ali not only lays bare the sweetness and nerves of first love, but also levels an unflinching gaze on the prejudices and racism within minority communities. . . . Beautifully written, this will appeal to fans of Caleb Azumah Nelson, Candice Carty-Williams, and Sally Rooney.”
—The Skinny (UK)
"As Ali tackles the difficulty of racism within ethnic groups tied to assumptions of solidarity, he succinctly delineates memorable characters and complex interactions . . . In all, [Good Intentions is] a vitally important exploration of deep-rooted prejudice, and the disconnect between understanding and the genuine practice of inclusiveness."
"Compelling. In the tradition of Spike Lee's film School Daze, Ali's novel explores the ways that racism may do its insidious damaged even among those who are traditionally not its targets and victims."
"Good Intentions is a heartbreaking story of a young man caught between worlds—between youth and adulthood, between family and passion, between ambition and survival. Kasim Ali builds a quiet yet unbearable tension while examining the complexities of racial prejudice. An unbelievably gorgeous debut."
—Angie Kim, bestselling author of Miracle Creek
"Good Intentions is so absorbing, compelling, and beautifully written. Its ending brought me close to tears—what an incredibly assured debut. I can't wait to see what Kasim Ali writes next."
—Beth O'Leary, bestselling author of The Flatshare
"Compelling, emotionally honest, and unafraid of the gray areas of race, faith, sexuality, and love. Kasim Ali's debut Good Intentions shows how complicated relationships can be, even with the best of intentions."
—Lillian Li, author of Number One Chinese Restaurant
"No taboo is off-limits in Kasim Ali's bold and thought-provoking debut. Good Intentions is a necessary addition to literature."
—Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, author of Yinka, Where is Your Husband?
"Good Intentions is a magnificent and messy love story that broke my heart. Bittersweet and tender, Ali writes about modern day relationships with such compassion. This is a novel for anyone who has ever known what it is to be conflicted in falling in love, feeling the expectations of our families but also ourselves."
—Huma Qureshi, author of How We Met
"A sensitive, smooth-toned, and absorbingly honest novel that makes us question our inner worlds at a time when this kind of self-examination might be the thing that saves us."
—Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People
"I found Good Intentions moving, modern, and utterly engaging. What a talent."
—Rhik Samadder, author of I Never Said I Love You
"A frank, moving, and truly compelling tale of the complexities of modern romance, and how family, friendships, society, and our own internalized prejudices can impact upon it. Good Intentions is a beautiful and honest story that I'd defy anyone not to be pulled in by, from a fantastic new talent in contemporary fiction."
—Sareeta Domingo, author of If I Don't Have You