I was more taken by this novel than I had anticipated. The basic premise is that advertising sales star Josh receives a call on Friday afternoon that rushes him to the hospital where his wife has brought their infant son, Zack, complaining of vague but serious symptoms.According to his wife, Dori, the hospital screwed up, but the situation draws the attention of the Head of Pediatrics Dr. Stokes who starts the machinery on the social services monster against the couple.
I noticed that this debut novel by Rajaa Alsanea about the lives of Saudi women, who struggle to balance their lives between two worlds, has been picked up with alacrity by both university bookstore and other serious literary bookstore markets. I put “debut novel” in italics because we are always interested in discovering new voices and new visions and it sounds like this narrative qualifies. It also brought to mind a memoir I read about the love of literacy among women in Iran, Readng Lolita in Tehran, which helped me to love literature even more by appreciating the effort it can take sometimes to stay civilized.
City of Thieves is a great seller, but at this point I wonder if it will make the Times list. Viking should be happy with the sales. This is Benioff’s first novel with them, as The 25th Hour was published by Carroll & Graf, way back when, at the time it was critically praised by Ms. Kakutani, and turned into a fantastic movie, which was followed by his short story collection, When The Nines Roll Over, which struggled to find a wider audience upon it’s release, and sadly went overlooked.
I want to start by discussing the characters. First, Dubus’ third person narrator pov shifts frequently, from character to character in each chapter such that we get insights into each characters thoughts. How well do you think that works? I know that House of Sand and Fog was acclaimed for the dual narration, but here he gets into a lot of characters heads and I’m not sure it works in every case.
The story unwinds gradually, with little forward action, but each report of the visit, and each childhood memory is a revelation that exposes their parents’ neglect and their own insecurities, but never reveals all. The exact nature of Richard’s malaise is undefined, as is the precise reason for his committal, and the real reason for J.D’s visit. J.D. imitates a scientist, trying to write cogent observation, but the unspoken in his report probably tells his psych professors as much about himself as his brother. He is lonesome and proud, sad and petty, but cannot express his emotions as clearly as his dissertation premise. His frustration spills out into his report.
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