Sex, money, and politics are the driving forces of society in this new novel from bestselling author Alaa Al Aswany. A medley of Egyptian and American lives collides on the campus of the University of Illinois Medical Center in a post-9/11 Chicago, and crises of identity abound. Among the players are an atheistic anti-establishment American ...
Sex, money, and politics are the driving forces of society in this new novel from bestselling author Alaa Al Aswany. A medley of Egyptian and American lives collides on the campus of the University of Illinois Medical Center in a post-9/11 Chicago, and crises of identity abound. Among the players are an atheistic anti-establishment American professor of the sixties generation, whose relationship with a younger African-American woman becomes a moving target for intolerance; a veiled Ph.D. candidate whose conviction in the code of her traditional upbringing is shaken by her exposure to American society; an emigre who has fervently embraced his new American identity, but who cannot escape his Egyptian roots when faced with the issue of his daughter's 'honour'; an Egyptian State Security informant who spouts religious doctrines while hankering after money and power; and a dissident student poet who comes to America with the sole aim of financing his literary aspirations, but whose experience in Chicago turns out to be more than he bargained for.This tightly plotted page-turner is set far from the downtown Cairo of Al Aswany's "The Yacoubian Building", but is no less unflinching an examination of contemporary Egyptian lives.
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As in The Yakobian Building, Alaa Al-Aswany stands out among Egyptian writers as a firm critic of social hypocrisy who is adept at intertwining several urban lives together to create a riveting plot. However, also as in his prior novel, he has a weakness for the tinny fanfare of an all-out life-or-death Hollywood ending, leaving his characters in the muck, relationships broken, young people in torture chambers, suicides, tears, etc, out of which one couple emerges (I won't say which) to give us hope. I liked it in The Yakobian Building, but this time around I saw all its artifice and kitsch. I couldn't put down the book I was liking it so much, but the resolution really felt forced and left a sour taste in my mouth.
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