Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

This sweeping debut novel from Al-Nakib (after the collection The Hidden Light of Objects) imagines an alternate reality for contemporary Kuwait in which blasphemy is made a capital crime. Sara, a professor of philosophy at Kuwait University, has been accused of blasphemy by one of her students. The offending lesson was on Nietzsche; according to her lawyer, the text’s Arabic translation “sounds even more damning” than the original. She examines why she returned to Kuwait 11 years earlier after so many years away, most recently in Berkeley, Calif. Part of it was to be closer to the spirit of her late mother. She also considers how previous generations of her family endured their country’s painful draconian rule. Alternating chapters skip between Sara’s present dilemma and the difficult choices her great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents made as they moved to Turkey, Iraq, India, and the U.S., only to find themselves ever again Kuwaitis. Al-Nakib renders each family member with care and exacting observation. As Sara’s verdict looms, this grapples profoundly with the limits of individual choice and the hold exerted by a person’s homeland. The result is accomplished and searing. Agent: Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Apr.)

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

A philosophy professor at Kuwait University who returned home from Berkeley after her mother's death and now struggles with loneliness and a sense of unbelonging, Sara faces a crisis when she's accused of blasphemy for teaching Nietzsche, which could lead to her execution. Blended into the narrative are the stories of Sara's grandmothers, proud Yasmine and poor-born Lulwa; Sara's ambitious mother, Noura; and Marie, the ayah who left behind her own children to raise Sara. Following the award-winning collection The Hidden Light of Objects; with a 50,000-copy first printing.