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. 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.
The Name of Red is the debut novel from author Beena Khan, a tale about strangers who become friends and then more, all about our pasts, trauma and the impact one person can have on our lives, often for the better. I was sent a copy of the book by Beena herself in exchange for an honest review, so I want to say a big thank you to her for giving me the chance to read and review her book, which is so close to her heart. I also want to mention that this book is own voices for South Asian and Muslim rep.
One of the biggest draws of this novel is definitely all the literary references and how the love of books contributes so heavily in the development of Kabir and Red’s friendship. I loved the whole ‘meet cute’ vibe between the characters, as Kabir leaves a different book for Red to enjoy each day with a little note inside. Day by day we read as Red gets more and more intrigued by the person leaving her books and when they meet, it’s both awkward and sweet. I would have liked to see this first meeting happen a bit later though, it would have made things more interesting and I feel like Khan could have extended this slightly to see how the fact they were strangers affected their conversations and revealing more information. After this though, I liked how Khan didn’t just throw the characters into a romantic relationship but actually built a genuine bond between the characters first. While this could be classified as a romance, it’s more unconventional and is more about the two characters on their individual journeys to healing, where their paths happen to cross and coincide.
As well as the clear love of books which bonds the characters, I thought the representation of past trauma and inner turmoil, and how this affected the characters lives was well done and just added more depth to the novel. It’s definitely tragic at times and speaks to how differently we all deal with grief and how it can feel all encompassing. I feel like it was also really realistic in showing that despite loving someone and finding moments of happiness, love doesn’t always conquer all and that seeking help and recognising that we can ask others for support is also really important.
There are a number of topics and issues touched upon within the novel, from immigration, faith, mental illness and addiction, to name a few. There was quite a lot of ground covered within the novel and each character had their unique experiences and backstories, including the side characters, of which Aryan was my favourite. I didn’t necessarily agree with some of the characters choices and I don’t condone the actions of the characters or their justifications for them when it comes to drinking especially, but I can appreciate the conversation which exists in the book about what being Muslim means and how individual relationships with faith were expressed. While I couldn’t personally relate to the characters here, I recognise that there may be readers out there who can.
A few things I think could have been improved was the pacing in the first few sections and somewhat repetitive and stilted moments which kept happening. I feel like this repetition was especially apparent towards the beginning of the novel where Red’s attractiveness and body is mentioned so many times, and it felt a tad uncomfortable and unnecessary to me, after the first few mentions. Another thing which felt repetitive was how many times it was reinforced that Kabir was more reserved and shy and that Red was the opposite of this, I just wanted to be shown this through the progression of the novel instead of being told this multiple times, you know? I feel like this makes some scenes a bit unnatural somehow and it’s a shame considering the other bits which had potential.
Overall, The Name of Red is a fascinating story, despite it being a book I normally wouldn’t read, intriguing not only because of the characters and their respective journeys, but because of the inspiration behind the novel. I would recommend this book to fans of romance and contemporary fiction that delves into deeper issues, it’s a story that will leave a lasting impression. If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, the link will be below!
Until next time,
About the author:
Beena Khan is a Literary Fiction Novelist and Poetess. She writes literary fiction and edgy, contemporary romance. She lives in a suburb in Queens, New York in her apartment. She’s 27 years old and from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. She’s an immigrant who moved to New York when she was five years old. She currently holds a Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology. She enjoys reading, writing, and netflixing. The Name of Red is her debut novel published at the age of 26.