An exciting, if at times confusing, start to a saga.

Yaqteenya: The Old World

The intrepid protagonist of Bahjatt’s (Somewhere!, 2014) novel races to end the civil war in his Islamic homeland—even if it means breaking its biggest rule.

After ruling the territory of Al-Andalus (now modern-day Spain and Portugal) for hundreds of years, the Moors’ reign came to an end with the 1492 fall of Granada. According to Bahjatt’s alternative history, the Moors fled Al-Andalus and came upon the warring tribes of Yaqteenya, whom they joined under the “unifying flag of Islam.” Claiming to be the last surviving Muslims, the Moors made a deal: they would help build Yaqteenya into a great civilization as long as nobody there returned to the old world and told Allah’s enemies about Yaqteenya’s existence. This agreement resulted in nearly 300 years of isolation and peace. Now, five chieftains deny the existence of the old world, question the veracity of Islam, and issue an ultimatum: the Moors and their followers must leave Yaqteenya or die. After a grueling year of bloodshed, Al-Baz Al-Monqad, the son of a chieftain who supports the Moors, decides to defy his father’s wishes and venture beyond Yaqteenya’s borders to determine whether the Moors have been telling the truth. Bahjatt delivers a novel with sci-fi– and fantasy-tinged elements. He effectively divides the novel into two distinct stories: half the novel chronicles Al-Baz’s journey to Granada, which finds him shipwrecked, captured by the Ottoman army, evading a mysterious group called the covenant, and mistaken for the son of a renowned Quran scholar. The other half explores Al-Baz’s life before this voyage, including the beginning of the civil war; Al-Baz’s friendship with Fida, the son of Yaqteenya’s leader; and the nonhuman entities (including mountains and eagles) with whom he can communicate. At times, however, the many intersecting storylines can be difficult to follow, and Bahjatt assembles far more elements than he has time to resolve (although a sequel is forthcoming). While the big picture remains blurry, Bahjatt keeps readers invested with enormous empathy for his main characters.

An exciting, if at times confusing, start to a saga.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-9-94-818097-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Yatakhayaloon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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