Apr. 23rd, 2017

Minaret cover"I am touched by her life, how it moves forward, pulses and springs. There is no fragmentation, nothing stunted or wedged. I circle back, I regress; the past doesn't let go. It might as well be a malfunction, a scene repeating itself, a scratched vinyl record, a stutter."

Leila Aboulela's Minaret elegantly weaves together multiple narrative threads: a coming-of-age story, a class story, an immigrant story, a story about discovering faith. The sections of the book alternate between Najwa's contemporary life as a domestic worker in London and Najwa's earlier, more privileged life. One of Minaret's particular strengths is the way these two timelines inform and echo each other, and the way they demonstrate the changes in Najwa's life as well as the ways she hadn't changed: what desires and values have been there all along, waiting to be unearthed or forged, and why did they go undeveloped before? In what ways might she still be stuck?

One of the most painful aspects of the book is Najwa's continual longing to return to safety of childhood and innocent parental love. Her repeated dream of childhood sickness and being cared for by her parents, being loved and treasured, was pretty heartbreaking. And Aboulela makes it clear that this isn't something Najwa's faith fixed or took away; it remains with her to the last page. But what faith, and becoming coming part of the religious community, does give Najwa is a way to understand and frame and not be defeated by what she cannot have:

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