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Grove. Feb. 2019. 224p. ISBN 9780802129130. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780802146946. F
This collection by award-winning Sudanese author Aboulela offers 13 stories united by themes of loneliness and homesickness. With settings ranging from Khartoum to London to Aberdeen, these tales explore multilayered tensions originating in religious, gender, cultural, and class differences. "The Museum," for instance, recalls the first date between a smart working-class Scottish boy who has been helping a young Sudanese classmate master their shared graduate coursework. Like "The Museum," which won Aboulela the first Caine Prize for African writing, other stories illuminate the challenges that can beset mixed-race couples. Not the least is the inability to appreciate one's own biases or to understand fully a partner's experience as other. In "Something Old, Something New," a white Muslim convert visits Khartoum for the first time to meet his beloved's family and discovers that "her country disturbed him." In "Souvenirs," the Scottish wife of a Sudanese man refuses to visit Khartoum with him but asks that he bring home an exotic gift upon his return to Edinburgh.
VERDICT 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.]
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