A story of tangled East-West relations in Kuwait six years after the first Gulf War.
While the characters’ lives haven’t necessarily been turned upside-down, they’ve at minimum been rendered tense. The threat of another invasion by Saddam looms large in the consciousness of everyone, both natives and Westerners; it’s never far from their awareness that in 1990 the Iraqi army defeated Kuwait in only six hours. Among the Westerners are Kit and Jack Ferguson. He’s there on business for an extended period of time; she doesn’t fit in with the wives of other executives, some of whom seem to have stepped out of Stepford. Kit winds up getting entangled with the life of her neighbor Mufeeda, a native Kuwaiti whose husband Saleh is a doctor at a local clinic. Also at this clinic, and new to the practice, is Theo Girard, who questions some diagnoses made by the staff’s senior member, Dr. Chowdhury. Wanting to learn Arabic, Theo hires beautiful Hanaan to be his tutor. Unexpectedly, he finds himself falling in love with this spirited young woman, who challenges traditional assumptions about authority and is generally a thorn in the side of conservative Kuwaiti culture. Eventually, however, Hanaan’s brother beats her up for dating a Westerner, and she feels torn between her affection for Theo and her ties to her family. Another major subplot introduces Mufeeda’s maid Emmanuella, who steals food to support the truly wretched and terribly exploited Santana, maid in another Kuwaiti household.
It could have read like a soap opera, but Hobbet (Pleasure of Believing, 1997) employs a deft touch as she moves into delicate areas of cultural misunderstanding and romantic complication.