I am slightly sheepish about my response to this book. I really really enjoyed it – to the extent that my kids ate cold left-overs and went to school with shabby un-ironed uniforms, such was my gusto for turning pages. But I fear I enjoyed this short novel for the wrong reasons. I knew the message was something to do with the reactionary, anti-migrant atmosphere in the US post-9/11, not to mention the ignorance of Westerners to fully comprehend its impact in the Middle East (clearly I include myself in that group) yet for some reason I was totally distracted by the sub-plot.
That sub-plot consists of the telling of the doomed relationship between the protagonist and a chronically depressed young woman. The tragedy of that thwarted love is captured so beautifully, from its gradual unfolding to its fragile and ultimately heartbreaking conclusion. Although I have never had the experience of being in such a relationship myself, I felt it gave me an insight to how difficult it must be to love someone who totally lacks the ability to look outward. A compassionate, rather than judgmental insight.
Still, it felt a little bit like going to a spectacular circus only to be distracted by some commotion in the aisle. That is by no means a criticism – in fact, I rushed straight out to buy Moth Smoke which would appear to be held in even higher regard. I fear the kids may yet eat another cold meal…!