Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion

Bushra Rehman

Quick Synopsis

For fans of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, an unforgettable story about female friendship and queer love in a Muslim-American community.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Razia Mirza grows up amid the wild grape vines and backyard sunflowers of Corona, Queens, with her best friend, Saima, by her side. When a family rift drives the girls apart, Razia’s heart is broken. She finds solace in Taslima, a new girl in her close-knit Pakistani-American community. They embark on a series of small rebellions: listening to scandalous music, wearing miniskirts, and cutting school to explore the city.

When Razia is accepted to Stuyvesant, a prestigious high school in Manhattan, the gulf between the person she is and the daughter her parents want her to be, widens. At Stuyvesant, Razia meets Angela and is attracted to her in a way that blossoms into a new understanding. When their relationship is discovered by an Aunty in the community, Razia must choose between her family and her own future.

Punctuated by both joy and loss, full of ’80s music and beloved novels, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a new classic: a fiercely compassionate coming-of-age story of a girl struggling to reconcile her heritage and faith with her desire to be true to herself.

Book Review

When I first heard about this book, I knew that I would jump at the chance to read it. I love exploring the lives of my neighbors through reading. If you do not know, I live in Woodside, Queens. One of the things I love about living here is that my neighbors are from all over the world. In this book, the characters live in Corona, Queens, a couple miles from my apartment and are originally from Pakistan.

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a novel about Razia, a Muslim girl growing up in 1980s Corona, Queens, among a tight-knit Pakistani-American community. The story chronicles Razia’s pre-teen and teen years. At its heart, this book is about Raiza’s struggle to find herself while reconciling with her family, faith, and future.

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is unlike any novel I have ever read. Each chapter could have been a stand-alone short story; in fact, some of the chapters had previously been published as just that. While the chapters were in chronological order, they did not directly connect to one another. As a result, the book was not one continuous narrative. Instead, it was a series of little vignettes, consisting of a few hours or days, of Razia’s life. While I quickly became used to this format, I found that did not propel me through the story.

I was surprised at what felt like an abrupt ending to the book. The story stopped at the most interesting part – what seemed like a logical climax. Razia was finally coming into her queerness, really questioning her place, and figuring out who she was. And then the book promptly stopped at the end of the chapter. For me, the better story was in what happened after the final chapter, not the childhood stories and games that comprised a majority of the book.

Due to the way in which Rehman wrote this novel, I felt dropped into the story. There is little context provided at the beginning. Along with this, I found that the only real character building was done through a character’s actions and Razia’s thoughts about them. As a consequence, most of the characters felt one-dimensional, like how a child may only see a person as one thing.

At times, Rehman’s writing shined, especially in the first and last page of a chapter. This seemed like the only time she really focused on the words being used and pushed to make the prose beautiful and meaningful. Essentially, there were bursts of brilliance sprinkled amid the pages. I think with some further development, Rehman has great potential.

Overall, I enjoyed Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion. The novel covers a lot of important topics. However, I cannot help but think if the entire book had been tied together, rather than in its semi-disjointed state, that this would have been an extremely powerful novel. While I still recommend giving it a read and think it is a good book, I just wish it had been the great one I expected.

Note: There is a rather grisly animal death around 100 pages into the book.


Overall Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Character Development

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion


Horror; Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date
December 6, 2022


Storygraph Rating
4.01 stars

Goodreads Rating
3.96 stars

Buy Now

Note: I received a gifted copy of this book from Booksparks as part of its book club. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.

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