The Kingdom Of Strangers ($24.00; paper $16.00; Jul. 1996; 112 pp.; 1-55728-433-4; paper 1-55728-434-2): This mosaic portrayal of its author's native Lebanon besieged by civil war in fact expands into a generalized examination of the chaos and despair suffered by families everywhere during wartime (e.g., in one of its segments that describes the unlikely friendship formed by an Arab and a Jew who meet in a neutral country and are thus uninfluenced by their rival cultures). The message is blunt, and Khoury (The Journey of Little Gandhi, 1994, etc., not reviewed) indulges an unfortunate predilection for portentous rhetorical questions and flat authorial statement. But in the tale of Widad, a Circassian peasant girl who becomes the beloved wife of the wealthy merchant who ``buys'' her, he creates a stingingly dramatic tale—blessedly shorn of moralizing—that escapes, and far out-distances his novel's essential preachiness.
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