Picture in the Sand

Dreamscape Media. Jan. 2023. 9:27 hrs. ISBN 9781666622805. $59.99. THRILLER
Edgar Award–winning Blauner (Slow Motion Riot) offers a gripping intergenerational epic. Young Alex Hassan upsets his middle-class Egyptian American family by giving up college and joining a holy war in Syria. The only person Alex communicates with is his grandfather Ali, who from Brooklyn shares his own memories with his grandson, describing his life before he became a family man, from working on the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments to getting entangled in the political upheaval of his own country. Ali hopes his story can convince Alex to come home before it’s too late. The parallel narratives of the young Ali’s disillusionment and Alex’s growing fanaticism connect grandfather and grandson across generations. Narrator Sean Rohani’s embodiment of both men gives dramatic weight to their stories. Rohani’s emotional tone, even when reading Alex’s brief emails, oscillates between the contentment of having a clear purpose and the dismay of discovering that purpose is lacking.
VERDICT A different kind of epic than The Ten Commandments, this novel focuses on Ali showing his love for and belief in his grandson by giving him not a tablet of principles but a story of human triumph that goes beyond Hollywood artifice.
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