Named after the "divine" Sarah Bernhardt, red-haired Sarah Nour El-Din is "wonderful, irresistibly unique, funny, and amazing," raves Amy Tan. Determined to make of her life a work of art, she tries to tell her story, sometimes casting it as a memoir, sometimes a novel, always fascinatingly incomplete.
"Alameddine's new novel unfolds like a secret… creating a tale…humorous and heartbreaking and always real" (). "[W]ith each new approach, [Sarah] sheds another layer of her pretension, revealing another truth about her humanity" (). Raised in a hybrid family shaped by divorce and remarriage, and by Beirut in wartime, Sarah finds a fragile peace in self-imposed exile in the United States. Her extraordinary dignity is supported by a best friend, a grown-up son, occasional sensual pleasures, and her determination to tell her own story. "Like her narrative, [Sarah's] life is broken and fragmented. [But] the bright, strange, often startling pieces…are moving and memorable" (). Reading group guide included.
In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father's deathbed. As the family gathers, stories begin to unfold: Osama's grandfather was a , or storyteller, and his bewitching tales are interwoven with classic stories of the Middle East. Here are Abraham and Isaac; Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes; the beautiful Fatima; Baybars, the slave prince who vanquished the Crusaders; and a host of mischievous imps. Through Osama, we also enter the world of the contemporary Lebanese men and women whose stories tell a larger, heartbreaking tale of seemingly endless war, conflicted identity, and survival. With , Rabih Alameddine has given us an for this century.
One of Beirut’s most celebrated voices, Rabih Alameddine follows his international bestseller, , with a heartrending novel that celebrates the singular life of an obsessive introvert, revealing Beirut’s beauties and horrors along the way.
Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, divorced, and childless, Aaliya is her family’s "unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated have never been read — by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, "the three witches,” discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue.
In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Insightful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.
A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, the gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a nuanced rendering of a single woman's reclusive life in the Middle East.