My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was written by my good friend Saleem Haddad - I met him when we worked together at Medecins Sans Frontieres and I recognized a special guy in that crowded London office. My review: I still think about things in this novel 10 days later - something that hasn't happened to me in a while. I recognized so many things in it that called out to me: Rasa's relationship with his Teta- their morning rituals, the silence around his father's fate, the living in a type of mausoleum but also the pain he felt around his mother and the suffocating silence. I'm not Arab but I grew up in a British household and felt many of those same emotions choking inside of me which I think is what makes me so hellbent on being open and speaking about all my taboos now. It made me really thing about the burden of being closeted and what it does to your emotions.
Things I loved: I felt so frustrated and angry at the scene in the wedding. it was so realistic - the whispered drunken asides from his shallow female friend, the mess of angst and emotion and love swirling around inside Rasa as he steadily drinks and argues with the waiter over his change. I just wanted a Hollywood happy ending - run off together! Be together. But that's not life. And the chaos towards the end was necessary. His mother crying as she chopped onions. His self-centered French friend and being forced out of embarrassment to accept the homeless man as his roommate.
Like some other reviewers, I think I would have liked more life inside Guapa. His friend Maj was the most uplifting character but I also wanted more of everything - more lush descriptions of falling in love, more lazy nights tangoing in a sequestered bedroom, more driving around tense parts of town, more revolution. I guess we can't have it all.
I also felt as if I shared Rasa's fatigue at the end of the novel - and that makes me think that the author did his job. My emotions were everywhere as I read it. And to me that is what I am looking for in reading - plunging into another world.
Thanks Saleem- for a fantastic novel. Can't wait to read number 2.
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