“A veil doesn’t make me a terrorist any more than it makes me a good Muslim. It’s a symbol.”
Title: Veiled Intentions
Author: Eileen Carr
Publication date: December 29th,2014
Genre: General Fiction,Mystery & Thriller, Young Adult/Adult
Synopsis: When a young Muslim high school student is accused of a crime she didn’t commit, her school counselor gets involved to clear her record in this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller from the author of Vanished in the Night.
When Lily Simon finds cops in the lobby of the high school where she’s a guidance counselor, she’s not surprised: cops and adolescents go together like sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But when the cops take Jamila, a Muslim student, into custody for a crime she didn’t commit, Lily’s high school becomes a powder keg.
Police think Jamila is responsible for a hit and run, and since she’s not talking, they have no choice but to keep her as the main suspect. And since the victim—a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan—is lying unconscious in the hospital, the whole town is taking sides on whether or not Jamila’s arrest is religious persecution. Determined to find the truth, Lily teams up with a reporter to uncover what really happened the night of the hit and run. But Lily didn’t expect to find such a tangled web…(via Goodreads)
In Veiled Intentions Eileen Carr paints a poignant picture of how a small lie and lack of faith in humanity can create discord among people and wreak havoc in a peaceful town. After finishing reading it last week, I have been mulling over how best to put my thoughts forward regarding this sensitive and time-appropriate thriller. Difficult to confine it to one particular category, this genre bender is a mystery cum thriller, not a ‘whodunit’ or ‘whydunit’ kind of story, but it is about the repercussions of a hit-and run accident in the lives of the people in the small town of Darby in Northern California; this is as much a YA read as it is a women’s fiction.
Veiled Intentions addresses some global issues which make it a perfect read for present times,viz.,
*Islamophobia and related hate crimes
*Alcoholism and drug abuse
I am in awe of the author for having the courage to address such sensitive issues and for expertly putting them together to create this masterpiece. Told from multiple points of view, this has an engrossing storyline which is at once thrilling, heartbreaking and mysterious with occasional humour injected in between.
The story begins with a court scene in the Yolo County Courthouse one October morning where Lily Simons, the school counselor of Darby High is being questioned by the defense attorney on the witness stand.
“Can you begin by telling us about the events of January twenty-seventh of this year?”
The case for which Lily Simons bears witness goes unmentioned but this sets the ball rolling with Lily recounting the events in flashbacks which led to her being a federal witness.
Lily was surprised when a couple of policemen came to the school that January morning asking for one of their star pupils Jamila Khaury, and was even more perplexed when they handcuffed the teenager right on the school grounds as a suspect of a hit-and-run accident of the previous night without any further ado. This accident which though sad but not uncommon would have gone unnoticed had the victim not been a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who lapsed into a coma after being hit supposedly by Jamila Khaury,a Muslim girl’s car. Though Jamila denies of causing the accident,the police do nothing to investigate the matter further,thus making her a criminal. This leads her parents to file a lawsuit against the police department for harassing their daughter on the grounds of being a Muslim. When the incident hits the newspaper, it soon becomes less about the accident and more about the differences between the pro-Muslims and the anti-Muslims.
“The reaction to the story has become the story. We really don’t know the facts about what happened that night in the parking lot.”
The peaceful university town of Darby becomes the breeding ground for religious hate crimes where some Islamophobic miscreants vandalize the homes of the Muslim residents in town. Jamila becomes the target for bullying at school and on Facebook. Jamila,who until then was a high achieving student starts withdrawing from school activties and begins wearing her hijab to school and finds comfort in her religion which seems to be her only solace. When Lily tries to stand up for Jamila, she is accused of being a Muslim supporter, ‘an Arab whore’ they label her and vandalize her property too.The Muslims who are agitated by then do not believe in her sincerity because she’s a Jew and start their own campaigns to protect their rights. The political parties and religious fanatics take advantage of the situation for their own gains.
Meanwhile the real culprit from the accident is running free but with a huge amount of guilt on her conscience. Her narrative is really interesting to note where various conflicting emotions come into play. She is at once feeling guilty for the aftermath of her error, but at the same time would do anything to remain anonymous, even try to further incriminate Jamila.
Then there is Daniel Richardson, Jamila’s class fellow, the perpetual loner who observes everything that’s happening around him. He tries to help Jamila and his fellow Muslim students but in the process gets further ostracized by everyone.
It is hard to review this particular story without giving out spoilers, but I would like to mention a few of the noteworthy things in the story,like Lily’s idealism, her constant efforts to do what is fundamentally right and to unite the town’s people. Though her belief to not put the terrorists and the innocent Muslims in the same category is criticized by others for what they believe is her naiveté.
It would change something. Maybe not something in the world, but something inside herself. She couldn’t stop paying attention. She couldn’t stop noticing. If she did, what kind of human being would she become? Did that matter either?
It all felt so hopeless. All of it. Not just the big stuff. Not just the wars and the famine and the terror. Even the little things felt completely out of her control. Her home. Her career. Her students. Her school. Maybe the only thing she could do was to pay attention, to be one of the people who didn’t let it slide by her.
There’s also the romance brewing between Lily and Sacramento Chronicle reporter Joe Sullivan who with their light-hearted moments provide the much needed breather in this sad engrossing tale. Though their romance is not a significant part of the plot, it is their sleuthing together which brings light to the actual events that occurred on the night of the much publicized accident.
“I think we make a good investigative duo. Maybe we should open our own firm.” – Joe
The actual case on trial in the beginning of the story comes as a great surprise which adds the element of mystery to the plot. The ending with the epilogue is a kind of dramatic culmination of all the events that take place throughout the book. The epilogue ends on an ominous note and makes one aware of the consequences of bullying and hate mongering, their everlasting impact on impressionable minds.
The maturity with which a story such as this has been told,which if not handled properly could hurt the sentiments of a lot of people is what makes me appreciative of this reading experience.With the world as it is today with gory news making the headlines daily,it is easy to ‘hate’ but this hate has its own repercussions which would then take eons to recover from.
Hate breeds hate. Intolerance breeds intolerance. The white kids pick on the Muslim kids and the Muslim kids kick back. Then everybody has something to hate everyone else for.
An ARC was generously provided by Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Disclaimer: All opinions here are drawn from my own conclusions no part of which bears any external influence.