Review by Booklist Review
Terrorist. Hero. Revolutionary. Whore. Nahr has been called all these and more, but, as she writes her own story from the Cube, where she is imprisoned for acts of terrorism against Israel, her story brings the varying degrees of truth behind those appellations to light. Born to a family of Palestinian refugees in Kuwait, Nahr suffers the disappointment of abandonment by her husband without even having a formal wedding. She soon begins a double life, where her skill at dancing leads to some unsavory associations and significant dangers. But it is when she meets her soon-to-be-ex-husband's brother in Palestine that her world completely begins to change. She discovers passion, love, and devotion to something more with Bilal, whose actions on behalf of the Palestinian cause will eventually lead her to the Cube. In this moving and nuanced novel, Abulhawa takes a hard look at the inheritance of exile and the intersection of the political with the personal, as Nahr's story reveals the complexity beneath the simple narratives told on both sides of a deep divide.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Abulhawa (The Blue Between Sky and Water) charts a Palestinian woman's gradual turn to sex work followed by violent resistance against Israeli settlers in this tragic and engrossing work. Middle-aged Nahr, the narrator, is in solitary confinement at an Israeli prison, where she recounts her life story. Born in Kuwait to Palestinian exiles in 1967 and named Yaqoot after her father's mistress, Nahr grows up with her mother, brother Jehad, and overbearing paternal grandmother. In 1985, she marries the gruff Mhammad, who abandons her two years later. Shortly after, Nahr meets a woman at a friend's wedding, who manipulates her into prostitution, which Nahr continues doing to help finance Jehad's education. When anti-Palestinian sentiment ramps up following the expulsion of the invading Iraqis in 1991, Jehad is arrested and tortured for collaboration, and the family flees to Jordan. The 1995 Oslo Accords allow Nahr to travel to Palestine and secure a divorce from Mhammad, and there she witnesses the injustices levied against Palestinians and joins in escalating acts of resistance until the eruption of the Second Intifada leads to serious danger. Abulhawa demonstrates the effect of trauma and helplessness on Nahr and others, leading them to violence. The detailed explorations of a woman's pain and desperate measures make this lush story stand out. Agent: Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary). (Aug.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
World renowned for Mornings in Jenin, Palestinian American author Abulhawa pits herself Against the Loveless World, with protagonist Nahr born in 1970s Kuwait to Palestinian refugees, growing up disappointed in life and love, flushed out of Kuwait by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and temporarily ensconced in Jordan before circling back to Palestine, where she ends up in solitary confinement. Called a Dr. Zhivago of Iran by Margaret Atwood, Iranian Canadian Hozar's Aria features a redheaded, blue-eyed baby girl rescued by an illiterate driver in Tehran and eventually passed on to multiple homes until the 1979 revolution ignites while she is at university. Short-listed for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Syrian author Wannous's The Frightened Ones opens with Suleima beginning a tentative relationship with mysterious novelist Nassim, then agreeing to take custody of his new manuscript when he flees to Germany. She's soon shocked to discover how much her life looks like that of the novel's protagonist, who even acts here as an alternate narrator.
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