DAMN! This here—a dynamic book about supporting each other, & reclaiming the essences of ones's self, set in a Jordanian town, filled with nuance & characters that I LOVE—is exactly what I needed.
—Recommended by Jared
"Malu Halasa's brilliant and gripping novel gave me a better sense of the vivid complexity of contemporary life in the Middle East than anything else I've read. Written at the intersection of all the big contemporary conversations - about kinship, politics, ethnicity, religion, gender and morality - it nonetheless remains intimate and engaging." ―Brian Eno
The Sabas family lives in a small Jordanian town that for centuries has been descended upon by all manner of invader, the latest a scourge of disconcerting Evangelical tourists. The border town relies on a blackmarket trade of clothes, trinkets , and appliances ― the quality of which depends entirely on who’s fighting ― but the conflict in nearby Syria has the place even more on edge than usual.
Meanwhile, the Sabas home is ruled by women ― Mother Fadhma, Laila, Samira, and now, Muna, a niece visiting from America for the first time ― and it is brimming with regrets and desires. Clandestine pasts in love, politics, even espionage, threaten the delicate balance of order in the household, as generations clash. The family’s ostensible patriarch ― Laila’s husband Hussein ― enjoys no such secrets, not in his family or in town, where Hussein is known as the Levant’s only pig butcher, dealing in chops, sausages, and hams, much to the chagrin of his observant neighbors.
When a long-lost soldier from Hussein's military past arrives, the Sabas clan must decide whether to protect or expose him, bringing long-simmering rivalries and injustices to the surface. Enchanting and fearless, Halasa's prose intertwines the lives of three generations of women as they navigate the often stifling, sometimes absurd realities of everyday life in the Middle East.