Univ. of Kentucky. Oct. 2018. 178p. ISBN 9780813176376. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813176390. F
OrangeReviewStarDEBUT Mahmoud's first novel offers a searing, intimate portrait of a new marriage. Partly of Palestinian descent, Isra lives in California with her aunt and uncle after the death of her mother. (Her father disappeared long ago.) Encouraged to marry, she chooses Yusef, an old love. The two battle through marital ups and downs, chiefly arguing about Isra's desire to work outside the home, as Yusef wishes her to be a traditional Arab wife. Eventually, he comes around to understanding that she needs control over her own life. The love they have for each other ultimately allows for forgiveness and reconciliation, especially after they suffer the heartbreak of a miscarriage and not long after stillborn twins. The author integrates chapters describing Isra's childhood, which are prescient and insightful.
VERDICT Yusef and Isra's story is relevant for people worldwide. With poignant, beautiful writing, Mahmoud quickly draws readers into the novel, portraying all her characters with a sympathetic voice. A fantastic choice for book discussions and well worth a second reading.

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