For fans of Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore.
A young girl, renamed Amerika in honor of the US role in the liberation of Kuwait, finds her name has become a barometer of her country's growing hostility toward the West. A middle-aged man dying from cancer looks back on his extramarital affairs and the abiding forgiveness of his wife. The headlines tell of war, unrest, and religious clashes. But if you look beyond them, you will see life in the Middle East as it is really lived - adolescent love, the fragility of marriage, pain of the most quotidian kind. Mai Al-Nakib's luminous stories unveil the lives of ordinary people - and the power of objects to hold extraordinary memories.
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Poetry and Insight in the Most Unlikely of Places
What I liked best about these stories were their universality. We in the US are daily barraged by political messaging that would have us think of foreigners as structurally or motivationally Other and Alien, but this is a grand reminder that people are people the world over, just cast into different backdrops and circumstances. I found it timely and heartening. Mai's observations of often-mundane events are thoughtful, often poetic, satisfyingly nuanced, and generally insightful. Though her language was mostly casual and often playful, it was at times blunt or coarse in a matter-of-fact way that I found I quite appreciated. It was a tool not overused, and so something I accepted and appreciated as textually confronting life in a fearlessly honest way without an excess of words. The fluidity with which she slips back and forth among various social complexities from love to politics to other social complexities in between was also unexpected and yet again evidence of a clear vision of how these are intertwined in the real lives of real people.
Laurance's performance of the book clear and expressive and really added texture to the overall experience of the book. A perfect choice for narrator.
I liked some stories more than others. All were good, but some were really extraordinary. Overall, it was a journey well worth my time throughout. I will recommend it to my friends as a must-listen.
- Kent M. Pitman