No Land To Light On

Atria. Jan. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781982187422. $26. F
Zgheib’s second novel (after The Girls at 17 Swann Street) is a story of immigrants and the toll exacted by the botched U.S. immigration policies. But most of all, it’s a love story. Sama and Hadi, two Syrian émigrés, meet in Boston and marry. Sama, who left her parents in Syria before the war’s height, is on a student visa, researching bird migrations for her PhD. Hadi arrives as a documented refugee, but his legal status means nothing when he is apprehended at the airport as he returns from his father’s funeral just as Executive Order 13769 (known as the “Muslim travel ban”) is put in place. Sama, pregnant with their first child, gives birth prematurely. Sama and Hadi’s story unfolds in a nonchronological, almost impressionistic style that mimics the confusion of the immigration experience. Zgheib’s prose is sensory, piquant with the scent of spices even as it captures the sorrow of living in exile while war destroys your homeland. But the novel’s real power is in humanizing the cruelties and injustices visited on migrants caught up in the travel ban.
VERDICT Highly recommended.
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