A sophisticated examination of cross-cultural tension at the dawn of the 21st century.

DUNE SONG

In the wake of 9/11, a Moroccan American woman seeks refuge in the land of her ancestors.

Born in the United States to a Moroccan father and a French mother and educated in America and Morocco, Jeehan Nathaar finds her life upended when she witnesses the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. After involuntarily abandoning her Ph.D. dissertation in ancient history, she’s working as a corporate temp in an environment where her ethnic and religious identities make her an object of suspicion and even open hostility from co-workers who demand an answer to the question, “Why do you hate us so much?” Seeking an excuse to flee these pressures, Jeehan impulsively accepts an invitation from Ali, a young Moroccan journalist who’s her casual romantic partner, to join him in reporting a story on the plight of migrants fleeing through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean. But from the time she arrives in Casablanca to find that Ali instead has departed for Spain, her life takes a decidedly different turn. Finding her way to a remote desert lodging and suffering from both physical and emotional debilities, she takes up residence with Lahcen, Fatima, and their teenage son, Fareed, in the process discovering the futility of distance as a remedy for her angst. Bouziane’s debut novel subtly explores Jeehan’s malaise in both the fear-filled atmosphere of post–9/11 New York City and the harshly beautiful and unforgiving Moroccan desert, moving smoothly between those settings in terse, mostly alternating, chapters. In the latter locale, she’s especially adept at blending psychological realism with mystical elements that underscore the gulf separating the cultures of West and East. The story’s final third, in which Bouziane injects some thrillerlike elements as Jeehan comes face to face with the evils of human trafficking, feels underdeveloped compared to the rest of the novel, but that shortcoming ultimately doesn’t detract overmuch from the book’s dominant mood or themes.

A sophisticated examination of cross-cultural tension at the dawn of the 21st century.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 9781623719418

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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