First published in Arabic in 2010, this is the compelling story of a determined young woman coming of age during the Lebanese civil war in 1987.
Faten is a mere 15 when she first makes the long trip from her mountain village to Beirut, where her father has arranged for her to work as a maid to help the family make ends meet. For two years, she does nothing but work, keeping none of the money she earns and getting only a few hours per week to herself. Unsatisfied with this life, Faten longs to go to university to become a nurse. Eventually, she makes contact with Marwan, a handsome neighbor who helps her to arrange to take the exams she’ll need to get into college. But when she sneaks away to take the first of the tests, she is caught and fired from her job. Chastened, Faten returns to her village, where she must try to secure her father’s understanding, or at least forgiveness, and make her way back to Beirut to pursue her dream. Sharafeddine tells the story in a deliberate, third-person, present-tense voice, creating a narrative with an old-fashioned, rather formal feel and a clear preference for women’s self-determination and independence.
Fans of literary and historical fiction will be drawn to this rich portrayal of the challenges faced and opportunities forged by brave young women in patriarchal, war-torn Lebanon. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)