PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post- GazetteWith the pandemic as my reading context, I can’t help but view Dalia Sofer’s Man of My Time as an exploration of how political and social upheavals leave their marks on entire generations, and irrevocably alter those involved ... Much of the novel’s dark humor and thoughtfulness come from the deep disconnect between what we intuit about Hamid, and what he admits about himself. There are moments where those fractures are apparent (\'What I failed to see . . . was that my father, too, as all men, had all along been constructing a chronicle of himself.\') The novel’s most poignant insight derives from the irony that we as readers are trapped in a chronicle of a man who lacks self-awareness. Revolutions oust old orders and usher in new ones, but at incredible personal costs. Reading this novel amidst a pandemic intensifies its warning that we resist becoming, like Hamid and his father, people of \'our time,\' people trapped and skipped over.
RavePittsburgh Post-GazetteDominicana is chock-full of sociological insights on immigrant experiences, such as its depiction of the fluidity between power and powerlessness, and how the wounded pride of immigrant men in the public arena is reclaimed within the home through hyper-masculinity and physical abuse ... It’s as if the novel doesn’t allow us to hate Juan for his infidelity and abuse, because we understand how he, too, was forced into marriage and into the role of a family’s savior ... It’s a novel that dares you to put it down, that rings with truth in every page while it entertains and offers tender and heart-wrenching moments in equal measure ... Dominicana tells the story of the hollowed-out woman; it gives shape and shadow to a narrative that has been erased and recalls other stories of immigrant women to mind in a way that feels like a long-overdue acknowledgement of all women with similar experiences.
RaveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThree Daughters is a compelling allegory of what the book jokingly refers to as ‘Muslimus Modernus,’ the modern Muslim, but there is no decoupling sexual politics from questions of the divine … The book presents two possibilities of what a modern Muslim woman can be: a secular, modern rebel or a headscarf-wearing traditionalist. Both identify as feminist, but in very different ways. The novel asks: Can there be another way? … The novel’s highest achievement is not its sweeping cultural pronouncements about Islam and feminism or even gendered power dynamics, but rather the quiet moment of clarity into one’s own shortcomings and a realization that we were harshest towards those who loved us the most, and that maybe things could have been different.
Orhan Pamuk, Trans. by Ekin Oklap
PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteAt 50 pages in, I had this book pegged as nothing more than an adaptation of the Oedipus myth, a story governed by the Freudian idea that what you resist persists. Mr. Pamuk lured me in with heavy-handed geologic metaphors and hints that had as much subtlety as a cartoon hero hitting a villain over the head with a frying pan ... The Red-Haired Woman explores the many myths and stories about father-son relationships...the novel contrasts Western and Eastern father-son relationships, while calling into question the very need for the strong, authoritarian father figure that seems both universally needed and reviled ...a beautifully written parable, a thoughtful consideration of Western and Eastern myths of fathers and sons, and the limits of free will.
PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThe novel begins two weeks after Wells' murder. It progresses forward in time and then doubles back to reveal the events as they lead up to the crime. Ms. Catton deliberately plays with pacing and plotting. At first, the book is slow. Characters are mentioned without prior context, which causes confusion. When the narrative doubles back to their stories again, things suddenly make sense, and the pace picks up … The astrological framework allows for a nuanced study of character types … The Luminaries shows how easily we're satisfied with partial truths. In this place of new starts, truth, like men, are fabrications. Even though it's a doorstop of a book, readers are rewarded for their diligence: this is a historical mystery unlike anything else.
RaveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteWith architecture as its central motif, Elif Shafak’s novel The Architect’s Apprentice is a gripping page-turner that blends mystery with Ottoman history and Turkish folklore, combining the great heights of the Ottoman Sultanate with the desolation of poverty, war, imprisonment and the plight of the nomad ...follows the career of Mimar Sinan, the Royal Architect to the Ottoman Sultans during the 16th century and mastermind behind the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia renovation, and countless mosques, hospitals, schools and aqueducts ... The climax of the novel comes when Jahan realizes that people and things are not what they seem; readers intrinsically know that the narrator isn’t, either ... Some of the novel’s mysteries are not woven through the novel all the way, and some themes are introduced, but left un- or underdeveloped ... Despite these issues, The Architect’s Apprentice is an exquisitely realized historical yarn of 16th-century Ottoman Empire.
PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThere is an odd compartmentalization in In Other Words between Jhumpa Lahiri the novelist and the assiduous student of Italian. She barely mentions her former work. I was hoping she would write about how feelings of inadequacy or exile found their way into her fiction. Ms. Lahiri’s writing in Italian is simpler than her English prose. Just the essential words, feelings and hints of scene remain. It seems that in giving up English, she also gives up realism and has moved on to more abstract writing.
PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteThis is medicine—and a risk—worth taking. The Arab of the Future begs for a more complex and compassionate understanding of an area of the world that’s all too often the target of misunderstanding and fear.