WILD MULBERRIES by Iman Humaydan Younes

WILD MULBERRIES

KIRKUS REVIEW

Set in 1930s Lebanon, this short formless offering from the Lebanese author of B as in Beirut (2007) is a diffuse mood piece until it lurches into a helter-skelter chronicle of domestic upheaval.

Sarah is a lonely, unhappy adolescent, the only child of her father’s second marriage. She lives in a large house in a Lebanese village with her father, her half-brother and her aunt; the two men loathe each other. She pines for her mother, who vanished when she was very young; her life is defined by her absence. Her wealthy landowning father, over 60, is cold and distant, tending to his silkworm business; her aunt Shams is a scold; only her half-brother hugs and kisses her. Sarah spends much of her time daydreaming in a walnut tree until she breaks her leg and is bedridden for two months. The silkworm business occupies the foreground, as her father bullies the migrant workers and deceives his foreman with empty promises. Rumors and tensions abound. Did Sarah’s father swindle his father-in-law out of his lands? Was that why her mother left him? Christian missionaries come calling, offending Shams, a strict Druze. Sarah’s teacher, an Englishwoman, is sending love-letters to her brother. Suddenly, without foreshadowing, Sarah is a young woman in love, exchanging passionate kisses with her brother’s friend Karim, who works for a British oil company. Skipping the courtship, Younes marries them off and sends them on a business trip to England. Sarah tracks down a friend of her mother’s, but her memory’s gone. Back in Lebanon she gives birth to a daughter; the birth comes on the heels of her father’s death. All that emerges with clarity from this crush of events is Sarah’s realization that her quest for her mother has been a waste of time and that a change of scene solves nothing.

A messy work that will not enhance Younes’s reputation.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-56656-700-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Interlink
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2008




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