Book Review: ‘The Retreat’ by Zara Raheem

A story of love, loss, and self-discovery in the Santa Monica Mountains


Book Title: The Retreat
Author: Zara Raheem
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-0063347991
Date Published: Apr. 30, 2023
Price: INR 235

The Retreat by Zara Raheem Book Cover

Book Review

The Retreat” by Zara Raheem is a heartwarming and insightful novel about love, loss, and self-discovery. The story follows Nadia Abbasi, a Muslim American woman who discovers that her husband of 10 years is having an affair. Devastated and heartbroken, Nadia decides to go on a wellness retreat in the Santa Monica Mountains to find peace and clarity.

At the retreat, Nadia meets other women struggling with their challenges. Through their shared experiences, Nadia begins to heal and face her pain. She also starts to realize that she is stronger than ever. The central theme revolves around the challenges of sustaining a long-term marriage—ten years, in this case. The backdrop is the West Coast of America, and the main character is Nadia Abbasi, a Muslim professional woman.

Nadia, an accomplished optometrist with a fulfilling personal life, faces an unexpected turning point. The initial shock of discovery gradually evolves into a deeper exploration of the repercussions of an unforeseen revelation. The reader accompanies Nadia on this journey of self-discovery and acceptance as she grapples with a truth she hadn’t sought. The journey begins with denial but leads her to confront the undeniable evidence she finds—photographs discarded by her husband, Aman. Her marriage is in jeopardy.

Amidst this turmoil, Nadia’s strained relationship with her elder sister Zeba weighs on her. Their differences grew during Zeba’s caretaking of their ailing mother, and Nadia decided it was time to bridge the gap. However, their reconciliation is far from straightforward, as buried resentment and emotional barriers prove hard to overcome. Nadia’s marriage quandary adds another layer of complexity. Unable to confront Aman directly, she embarks on a mission to locate the other woman involved and address the issue head-on. This endeavor proves more challenging than expected.

The characters in “The Retreat” are complex and relatable. Nadia is a strong and independent woman who is struggling to cope with the pain of her husband’s betrayal. She is also a loving and devoted sister and daughter. The other women at the retreat also deal with their personal challenges, such as infertility, divorce, and grief. Raheem does a great job of showing how these women support each other through their shared experiences.

The setting of The Retreat is also important. The Santa Monica Mountains are beautiful and tranquil, providing a much-needed respite from Nadia’s chaotic life. A retreat is a place where women can heal and find peace. The themes of “The Retreat” are universal. The book explores the themes of love, loss, self-discovery, and forgiveness. These are themes that everyone can relate to, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Nadia juggles the dual challenges of repairing fractured relationships—a dance of two steps forward and two steps back. Zara Raheem’s writing shines in its straightforward and accessible style, tailored for an American readership. While the book doesn’t delve into profound insights, it paints a heartwarming tale of joy, sorrow, heartbreak, understanding, adaptation, and the bonds between women. The narrative might lack subtlety, favoring explicit explanations over implicit storytelling. The ending might appear too neatly tied up, yet it harmonizes with the story’s flow.

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Although the story exudes a young adult fiction vibe, it’s important to note that the characters are primarily in their mid-thirties. The novel boasts heartening touches like Nadia’s departed mother “visiting” her through birds and animals. “The Retreat” is a beautifully written novel that explores the complexities of love, loss, and self-discovery. Raheem does an excellent job of creating relatable and sympathetic characters. The story is heartwarming and insightful and will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

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