#ReadWithMC Reviews 'These Impossible Things'

These Impossible Things
(Image credit: Future)

In June, the #ReadWithMC community dove deep into Salma El-Wardany's These Impossible Things, an unputdownable novel about three friends navigating love, family, and faith. One reader (@alanna_dreamingwithopeneyes) described El-Wardany's debut—which was also named June's Read With Jenna book club pick—as "not straight female lit, not romance, but rather a novel that bobs and weaves into a light version of contemporary fiction." 

In the words of Melissa (@the_reading_affair), "This book stole my heart." Readers loved These Impossible Things' nuanced depiction of female friendship, with some reviews taking care to include content warnings (These Impossible Things includes descriptions of physical and emotional abuse and sexual assault).

Each month, we gather up the reviews of our virtual book club members so anyone else looking for their next great read has a collection of recommendations. Here's what else #ReadWithMC readers had to say about These Impossible Things.


"timely. relevant. honest. powerful.

THESE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS takes a deep dive into religion, identity, relationships, choices, and most of all friendships. i feel like i learned so much, in an effortless way. reading this book was the easiest thing to do.

this book is my favorite read of 2022 and i’m pretty sure i knew before page 100. 🥹 the writing just truly spoke to me, it was poetic and relatable and i would frequently start underlining a passage and just not know where to stop because i loved it all.

more than once i empathized and connected with the characters. at times they frustrated me. by the end i had chills, and wanted to check in on every one of my besties.

these stories will stick with me for a while. 🧡

⚠️CW apply. reach out if you want more information!

and PSA: if you love The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and/or appreciate novels about friendships, messy relationships, and figuring shit out with deeper personal and cultural themes (like myself), and/or are reading this caption right now, then ADD 👏 TO 👏 CART 👏!!"

@dariasbookstagram

A post shared by Daria (@dariasbookstagram) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

"I have so many feelings. Poetry wondrously flowed throughout this book! I'm already ready to read her next one. The foundation of this story is laid with love, family and, most importantly, friendship. We got the sense that the characters were never alone, the pages swelled with the chorus of community in the toughest times as we follow three lifelong friends who are British, Arab and Muslim as they venture into adulthood, choosing careers and life partners while balancing familial obligations. But sometimes these familial obligations and their life partners clashed, compelling one to be sacrificed. Do they want love or family more? Can our characters handle the cost of this sacrifice? Will they ever be fulfilled when such an essential part of their life is taken away? It's entertaining to see how this unfolds and the writing is gorgeous!! I was attached to this book for the time I was reading it. I still some questions...

I'm not sure how "the world" will receive this story. There are so many false notions about who Muslim women are and what is expected of them. I'm not sure I'm prepared for opinions that will come. I have many opinions of my own, some I will share, some I will withhold. I think anything involving women, sex and choice have the power to drive misogynists (women included) crazy. Add Muslim to that equation and we have a whole police force lined up to condemn and punish. Revisiting her essay in IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BURQA gave me more understanding of the author’s reasons behind creating these characters.

But I still can't tell whether or not the communities would appreciate a story as unfiltered as this. Women engaging in forbidden things reserved for men. Receiving pleasure from sex without shame or guilt... And I definitely cannot tell how Arab men will feel about their depiction in this. Whether it matters or not is not for me to say. I tried to "put myself in their shoes" and also ask Muslim and Arab women I know about how they would feel about certain aspects and the responses varied.

Last thing I'll ask: why are all their knights in shining armors white? But all the Arab men deficient (to say the least)? Was it to prove a point? Should I care? Does balance matter?"

@themillennialjareads

"4.5 ⭐️- Contemporary Fiction

Following three friends, Malak, Kees, & Jenna, as they navigate adulthood within their religious and cultural traditions.

Another @readwithjenna pick for the win. I was instantly so invested in all three women’s lives and not one stood out more than the other. I’m usually a quick reader, but I spent more time with this story. Not because I didn’t want to pick it up, but I literally took in every word.

There are some heavy themes (dm me for CW) but the way the author was able to articulate the women’s feelings and explore these topics was so authentic and powerful.

Overall, I’d recommend to those that enjoy complex family dynamics, friendships, and love — and all the emotions in between.

*I cannot speak on the representation, but I did appreciate the conversation of what it means to be “a good Muslim woman”.

Friendship, female expectations, interfaith relationships."

—@bookedwithrook

A post shared by Jenna (@bookedwithrook) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

"CW: sexual assault, domestic abuse, abortion, family estrangement, racism, and more

This book's a hard one to review as a white woman, and I think it's important for readers to seek out #ownvoices reviews of this one, so please take that as a caveat. There were a lot of beautifully written and resonant parts of this book that I appreciated -- about friendship, love, and family.

The book sets up to explore the difficulties of interfaith relationships in Muslim families, but it also sets out to explore the ways in which relationships with Muslim men can be difficult. Both of these were important explorations, but when put together in this book, it left the white men to come through as the saviors of the women, and this felt problematic to set up in such a binary way. In the last third of the book, I struggled with this binary and with the ways that the end of the story felt unrealistic in the way the men responded."

@thats.one.for.the.books

A post shared by Lindsey (@thats.one.for.the.books) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

"These Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany is a poignant, powerful story of female friendship through the complexities of love, sex and religion. It has always been Malak, Kees, and Jenna against the world, as they shared the struggle to maintain the image of a ‘good’ Muslim woman while pursuing their goals and ambitions. As their college years come to a close, they are on the precipice of adulthood and the strength of their bond is more important than ever. But one night changes everything. Harsh truths are revealed and their friendship is challenged in ways they never expected.

This book has stolen my heart. It is beautifully written, honest and raw, with the clear voice of each woman shining through. It explores the messiness of relationships and the conflicts with tradition and family that can consume us all. It is a celebration of women and a testament to their power, courage and strength. The novel is confronting and at times dark, please be a aware of the content warnings, including sexual violence and abuse.

A debut novel by the inspiring @salmaelwardany, it is definitely a book I will be recommending to anyone that will listen. Thank you to @hachetteaus for my #gifted copy. I have been moved beyond words can describe. Also isn’t this copy just divine?"

@the_reading_affair

A post shared by The Reading Affair (@the_reading_affair) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

"It was a delicate balancing act between rebellion and religion and catching that ever elusive middle ground was almost impossible.”

@netgalley came in huge for me this month with 2 arcs that ended up being chosen as book club selections-Nightcrawling for @oprahsbookclub and These Impossible Things for @readwithjenna. What can I say? I have good taste in requesting arcs, and great minds think alike 😜🙌🏼

This was a beautiful debut by @salmaelwardany about 3 Muslim women who have been friends since childhood, and during college each follow their hearts in different directions. The pressure to marry a Muslim man keeps several relationships secret while ruining others, and puts a wedge in their friendships. Their lives drift apart and each of them suffers the loss in various ways. It touches upon serious topics without getting too heavy, yet floats in and out of the romance genre as well. Not straight female lit, not romance, but rather a novel that bobs and weaves into a light version of contemporary fiction. The beginning felt a bit sophomoric but then it picked up speed and the writing got stronger as the storyline unfolded.

Culture, religion, and family values are at the heart of this novel, while being juxtaposed by women’s current day societal, work, and life issues. Its inner narrative of female friendships that stand the test of time will have you wanting to gather with old friends, while the cultural references will enlighten the reader to Muslim practices and traditions."

@alanna_dreamingwithopeneyes

"Is it enough to say that I enjoyed These Impossible Things because I see myself in its protagonists? Three young ladies who have been raised in environments where even in adulthood they feel the need to fold themselves into ways that are…acceptable: to their parents, to their elders, in accordance with their religion, to their culture. The truth is I didn’t intend to make reading this book about me. But it is uncanny how, in painting a picture of three Muslim women, El-Wardany also showed me things about my own upbringing in a small country, in a very conservative christian home. 

So, I enjoyed this book and getting to know Kees, Malak and Jenna as they navigate finding their authentic selves, while nursing a desire to remain firmly planted in the communities and faith in which they grew up. Through the stories of these fictional women, El-Wardany offered words (paragraphs, and quotes) that describe experiences that I have never put words to: Finding the correct version of yourself to be when visiting home, finding the love in between of the lines of your parents actions…And maybe for now, it allows me to look past the parts of the book that I would have otherwise been quicker to critique. Like how within their immediate circles it is overwhelmingly the white male friends/partners that show up for these ladies when they truly needed it, how the happy ending never arrives with the Muslim men, how the Muslim men that these women interact with are jealous and insecure, how like so many other books, weight is a factor of wellness, though (maybe to El-Wardany’s credit, just maybe) not the only one.

Still, this book found me crying bitter-sweet tears at the end, as Kees, Malak and Jenna, do realize who they are and that within each other, they find a piece of community that they desire; how sometimes communities are not as rigid as we tend to believe and that sometimes love can make even rigid systems flexible."

@bookish.by.elle

A post shared by Bookish by Elle (@bookish.by.elle) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Jenny Hollander
Jenny Hollander

Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless.