Aboulela, Leila

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River Spirit

Historical novels are often most successful when they focus on ordinary people experiencing extraordinary times, and that is the case with Aboulela’s (The Kindness of Enemies) latest. Zamzam and Yaseen’s love story is moving and gripping, sweeping the reader along hoping that they will end up together against the odds. The multiple perspectives also serve a useful purpose for readers who may know next to nothing about the complex historical events described. Highly recommended.

Bird Summons

Incorporating elements of magical realism and tales from both the Quran and Anglo folk traditions, this latest from Aboulela (The Kindness of Enemies) is a strange mix of domestic realism and fantasy/allegory. The supernatural aspects start out subtly and almost unnoticeably but begin to take over in the book’s last third, which makes the conclusion a bit heavy-handed if intriguing.

Elsewhere Home

Aboulela succeeds because her characters are neither neatly defined nor one-dimensional, though the milieus can become repetitive. Several stories were included in 2001's Coloured Lights, and most have been published elsewhere, which recommends this collection especially for libraries that have not already discovered this accomplished author. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/18.]

The Kindness of Enemies

Winner of the first Caine Prize for African writing, Aboulela (Minaret; Lyrics Alley) challenges readers with thought-provoking ideas about the meaning of jihad, then and now, and demonstrates how ignorance of another's beliefs prohibits us from embracing our common humanity. [See Prepub Alert, 7/27/15.]

Lyrics Alley

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy family sagas set against a political backdrop, such as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun. [See "Prepub Exploded," BookSmack!, 9/16/10.]

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