Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Language of Miracles

I just have to start out by saying this cover is as beautiful as the story. So great.

The Language of Miracles - Rajia Hassib
In the Language of Miracles
Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Narrated a year after Hosaam and Natalie’s deaths, Rajia Hassib’s heartfelt novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days leading up to the memorial service that the Bradstreets have organized to mark the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community, Khaled, their surviving son, finds himself living in the shadow of his troubled brother. Struggling under the guilt and pressure of being the good son, Khaled turns to the city in hopes of finding happiness away from the painful memories home conjures. Yet he is repeatedly pulled back home to his grandmother, Ehsan, who arrives from Egypt armed with incense, prayers, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter’s family. In Ehsan, Khaled finds either a true hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.

Writing with unflinchingly honest prose, Rajia Hassib tells the story of one family pushed to the brink by tragedy and mental illness, trying to salvage the life they worked so hard to achieve. The graceful, elegiac voice of In the Language of Miracles paints tender portraits of a family’s struggle to move on in the wake of heartbreak, to stay true to its traditions, and above all else, to find acceptance and reconciliation.

Yes, very lengthy book description. I don't know what else to say about this book that isn't fully covered in that other than the story is exquisitely well written. It's a bit wordy in some spots and again, much like a book reviewed earlier this week the dictionary app on my phone was my friend for sure. But the story just flowed so well and it felt smooth when you read it, if that makes any sense to you at all. But as much as the book is beautiful, it's equally horrific in some aspects. 

What got me was similar to other books where you have a teenager or child who commits an unspeakable act, all of the other characters look to the parents for answers. What did they do wrong? How did they screw a child up so badly that their child does this? In this book, not only do the parents have that kind of attention to them but throw in the fact they are immigrants and basically outsiders. Everything feels exponentially worse when they don't really have anything solid to lean on. And it's not just that they are immigrants, they are post 9/11 immigrants and we all know immediately following 9/11 that if you are not American born and you even tip toe to the line of tragedy, people will turn on you and it's not fair. Then to compound it even more, not only did their son kill someone he kills himself so they are left reeling with the pain their son caused another family but also mourning the death of a son they loved. It's hard to reconcile that. The public paints your child as this terrible person forgetting that he was loved and wanted, but at the same time, you don't condone his actions at all. 

Truly, this might be up there in my top 10 books of the year. I just love how it was written, I love the story, I love how the author gives you every angle and you see every point of view so clearly. Truly, for a subject so heavy in sadness and disbelief, Rajia Hassib did a phenomenal job writing it all the way to the end. I cannot wait to see what she does next. 

You can pick this book up at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, of course. In the meantime, visit Rajia's website to learn more about her and the book!