These Impossible Things

Grand Central. Jun. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9781538709306. $28. F
DEBUT This coming-of-age novel by El-Wardany, an Egyptian Irish poet and BBC broadcaster, captures perfectly the uncertainty of life in one’s mid-20s and how easy it is to become unmoored. Malak, Kees, and Jenna, British Muslim women who’ve been friends since childhood, are graduating from university and excited to embark on the rest of their lives, secure in their friendship. Then a fight between Malak and Kees tears the women apart, devastating all three. Malak, still hurting from the recent break-up of a long-term romantic relationship, decides that a fresh start in Cairo is just what she needs. Kees, worried that her relationship with her boyfriend will suffer the same fate, throws herself into her work. Meanwhile, Jenna spends more time dating and partying, until one horrible night changes everything for her. As the women navigate a harsh world, they come to realize how much they need each other.
VERDICT El-Wardany’s highly recommended debut sensitively handles rape, domestic abuse, and the pressure of familial obligation. The book’s particular strength is in its treatment of the women’s Islamic faith as each grapples with what it means to be devout. There are no easy answers here, and readers will be thinking about Malak, Kees, and Jenna long after they close the book.
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