Beautiful, smart, but a little too determined, Fatima Shihabi flees Iraq when she learns that she is a target for Saddam Hussein’s secret police. Once she finally gets out, she realizes that no one will grant her asylum, and that she is trapped. Her brother, a college professor working in the United States, is desperate to save her and calls up a law firm in New York City. That’s how Fatima’s case ends up in the hands of Charles Sherman, and together they fight to free her and find a way out from underneath the power of tyrants – and veils – of all kinds.
I enjoyed this book. While the prose is occasionally awkward, for the most part the writing disappears into the page as the reader gets swept into this passionate, compelling story. It would be difficult not to feel for Charles and Fatima – here they are, fully fleshed out, determined, flawed human beings. I particularly liked Charles, who seemed very like a person I would know on the street. I also liked that since the characters were drawn together by crisis, it was easier to imagine them loving each other than otherwise. When you are that close to dying, things and priorities change, something I think Murphy expressed well. The plot was never predictable until just before the end, and I have to say that I didn’t see that ending coming, although perhaps I should have given that it fits the tone of the book very well.
I will admit that I skipped the poetry, but I almost always do that, and at least there wasn’t much for me to skip here. It didn’t seem to matter, either, as the story functioned well without such props. I also really liked how the veils were woven into the story and how we don’t face the truth of ourselves very often. Very cleverly done.
Overall, I recommend it. This book is a very compelling tale of what’s happening in Iraq and how hard it is for the citizens there, not to mention the characters and their struggle. I’m glad I read it. More, I sincerely hope that if Mr. Murphy chooses to write another book that he is picked up by a mainstream publisher. I think he deserves it – he has that talent.
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