Sunday, June 4, 2023

Q&A with Zara Raheem



Zara Raheem is the author of the new novel The Retreat. She also has written the novel The Marriage Clock. She teaches English and creative writing, and she lives in Southern California.


Q: What inspired you to write The Retreat, and how did you create your character Nadia?


A: I’ve always been drawn to stories about sisterhood. I think it’s because I have a sister, and I know how integral that relationship has been in my life.


I also know there are ebbs and flows to every relationship depending on various circumstances, so when I was thinking about ideas for my second novel, I was interested in exploring how a relationship between two sisters, who had previously been close, could become fraught and distant after having experienced a significant loss. I knew I wanted them to find their way back to each other, so I just built a story around that journey. 


I wanted to create a main character in whom readers could see parts of themselves. Nadia is a character who represents so many of us—on the surface, she comes across as a confident “girl-boss,” but as we begin chipping away at those outer layers, we see her vulnerabilities and insecurities begin to surface.


As the story unfolds, we learn that much of her behavior is to accommodate and please those around her. It’s only when she comes to this realization herself is she able to break free from the confines of duty and expectation to carve out her own path.

Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Nadia and her sister Zeba?

A: Nadia and Zeba’s dynamic reflect the complexities of sibling relationships. They go through cycles of friendship and rivalry, but at the end of the day, the love and admiration they have for one another exceeds any past resentments or issues. Theirs is a relationship built on trust, and there’s something moving about seeing them work through the complications to show up for one other.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it “A gentle yet heart-wrenching exploration of how endings can also be seen as beginnings—depending on your point of view.” What do you think of that description?

A: I think it’s a lovely description! I’m a big believer that every chapter that ends in life (by choice or circumstance) marks the start of a new chapter, and I’m so pleased that sentiment came through in The Retreat.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: There are certain markers of success that are universally recognized—education, career, marriage, children; however, I hope reading The Retreat will inspire readers to redefine success in more human terms.


The characters in the novel, like many of us, feel pressured to maintain the illusion of “having it all,” but I hope their individual journeys will be a reminder that no amount of success is worth the cost of our happiness.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am currently working on another novel. It’s still in the early brainstorming phase, so there’s not too much I can say just yet other than it’s a story I’m really excited about, and I can’t wait to share more soon!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share The Retreat with your readers, and for those interested in connecting and learning more about my upcoming works, you can reach me through my website: or on Instagram at @za_ra_heem.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Zara Raheem.

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