I had mixed emotions about this book. It is ambitious, and engaging, and is a very fast read. I think I read it in about an hour and a half, while watching to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I am not sure that it succeeded in all of it’s ambitions, but I would generally recommend it.
It is a first person narrative from Laila, with very short chapters. I liked the narrator – she was convincing to me. The cast of this book is limited to a few people: Laila, her mother, her brother, the CIA agent, a few classmates, a few other immigrants from home. The country that Laila has fled is an unnamed country in the Middle East. We are obviously meant to think of Iran or Iraq, but the author never identifies the setting of Laila’s country of origin. The action takes place in a relatively short period of time after Laila’s arrival in the U.S.
There was so much going on in the background of this book: the various forms that privilege can take, how one person’s privilege is another person’s cage, misogyny, the impact of religious fundamentalism, growing up in a world where physical safety is just another commodity, available only sometimes and only ever to the wealthy.
Laila is an insightful narrator, but she is not precocious. She is an ethical person, but not a questioning person. Or at least she wasn’t until after her father is assassinated.
I would love to get the rest of Laila’s story. Those of you who read the book will know just what I mean.