Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: All Inclusive


I had no idea how I was going to feel about Farzana Doctor's latest novel, All Inclusive, when I was asked by Dundurn Press to be a part of their blog tour. The synopsis sounded interesting enough but would I really like it? Spoiler alert: yes, yes I really would.

Here's the synopsis:
Whether it's about work and play or life and death, sometimes there's no avoiding bumpy encounters.
What'
s it like when everyone's dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise — if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists to deal with. But it's not all bad: Ameera's pastime of choice is the swingers' scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the hassle of ever having to see them again.
Despite Ameera's best efforts to keep her sideline a secret, someone is spreading scandalous rumours about her around the resort, and her job might be at stake. Meanwhile, she's being plagued by her other secret, the big unknown of her existence: the identity of her father and the reason he abandoned her. Unbeknownst to Ameera, her father, Azeez, is looking for her. The fact that he's dead is just a minor detail.
A moving new work from award-winning author Farzana Doctor, All Inclusive blurs the lines between the real world and paradise, and life and the afterlife, that shows how love can conquer any obstacle. 
I loved that this book was so different than most books I've read. It's a contemporary story but there's a hint of fantasy (though that's not exactly the right word). Azeez, Ameera's father, is dead. We learn that fairly early on (talk about a gut punch moment when I realized what had happened to him and again when Ameera learned about it) so the majority of Azeez's chapters are told by his spirit. I liked the dual perspectives, and the use of an actual event (the Air India bombing), because it gave the novel so much more depth.

I also loved that Ameera isn't your run of the mill protagonist. I'll be the first to admit that I don't read very diversely so I don't happen upon non-white, non-heterosexual characters very often. So, yes, Ameera's background and sexual preferences were refreshing for me. I'd be interested to see what others, who do read diversely, may think of how Ameera was written. I appreciated that all of the scenes featuring the swingers and polyamorous couples felt authentic. Doctor acknowledges there are people who will judge Ameera (the anonymous complaints against her are proof of that) but the reader should not judge Ameera based on how Doctor wrote her. Any judgment or negative feelings a reader would have would come from (and I'm going to get a tad controversial here) their own closed mindedness.

An entertaining thing, to me, when reading this book is the fact that my sister works in a role similar to Ameera's. Right now she's on her second contract on a cruise ship where she works on the sports staff (running the rock walls, zip lines, surf simulators, and the like). I know she's had a few comments from guests who think it's just the best that she gets to see all of these great places while she's working. Now, she knows she's lucky and has been able to see so much more than she would have otherwise but...she's still working. So I completely understood how Ameera wasn't feeling as one would expect in "paradise".

Finally, I just love that this book is by a Canadian, has Canadian characters, and features some scenes set in Canada (Hamilton, Ontario to be specific). I liked that the few scenes in Canada happened just a little ways down the highway from where I'm living now. Plus, I think there are some opportunities for Project Bookmark Canada, too! Regular blog readers will know I don't read nearly enough Canadian fiction, which is a shame. I don't because most books that I have read aren't like All Inclusive. I wish they were. This novel will definitely be in my top five CanLit list at the end of the year.

I don't think I've ever read a book like All Inclusive before and I think that is one of my favourite things about it. Farzana Doctor has written an intriguing novel that will keep you turning the pages until the end. And that won't take you very long since this book is on the shorter side at just over 290 pages. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy today and let me know what you think of it!

*An ARC was provided by the publisher, Dundurn Press, in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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