★★★ The Fearful Lion by Almas Akhtar is a heartwarming story about true love—the sort of love that can conquer time, tragedy, and the challenges of everyday life. Osama Ali Khan grew up as a lonely child abandoned by his young parents after their arranged marriage collapsed. Raised by his doting grandparents, Oz finds the childhood comfort he needs, yet he is continuously looking for something more. Plagued by anxiety attacks, it is not until he attends the University of Michigan and meets the beautiful and intriguing Sarah Suleri that he realizes what his life has been missing. They fall madly in love and begin to plan their life together but their relationship is put to the test when Oz’s anxiety worsens. In order to realize just how important they are to each other, they must spend time reflecting on who they are as individuals. In the end, it is their love for each other that makes them stronger.
Almas Akhtar has created a moving story that touches on so many aspects of daily life. As the child of an immigrant family, Oz must tackle the challenges of juggling two different cultures. Akhtar also discusses mental health issues and the way that they can affect relationships. She shows how Oz’s anxiety is something that he must conquer himself with the help and support of his family and friends. While it does drive him and Sarah apart initially, Oz’s path towards recovery and stability brings them together again. Truthfully, the plot at times becomes a tad simplistic, and the problems facing the characters are too easily resolved. Akhtar has created likable characters, and by developing their story arcs more dynamically, she could have made their struggles more deeply felt by the reader.