If literary realism attempts to hold a mirror to the world, then Leila Aboulela’s Elsewhere, Home is an especially vivid reflection ... 11 out of the 13 entries have been published before. And yet there is a freshness here, in part due to the scarcity of Muslim European voices in America. But the force of Aboulela’s writing exceeds its representational significance ... One marvels at a sort of uniformity in this quiet collection that transcends theme, setting, subject. Critics sometimes speak of writers as having 'found their voices,' but this book is a testament to one who’s always had hers ... This book’s diversity of places and perspectives collectively expands, without fanfare, on all the usual tropes of identity ... Despite the story’s specificities both comic and tragic, its themes of the uniting influence of literature will resonate with anyone, anywhere ... Yet nothing is diluted or compromised in the coalescence; somehow Aboulela manages to create this tapestry devoid of clichés. Her characters are as real and conflicted as we are ... Hers is the first collection I’ve read since James Joyce’s Dubliners that reminded me of the life-changing power of furiously honest realism.
...[a] beautiful and desolate collection ... They distil many of her recurring concerns – immigrant loneliness, complicated romance and a portrayal of the Islamic faith that goes far beyond the cliched narrative – but without ever becoming trite ... An intimacy is created between couples, siblings, mothers and daughters that immediately pulls the reader into their lives ... Aboulela builds up the emotional drama here with such mastery ... There is so much quiet brilliance to this story and others that it is a surprise for those who have only followed Aboulela’s long-form fiction to discover she has just as much mastery of the short form.
...[a] compelling collection ... Avoiding an overtly political tone, Aboulela nonetheless sets out to challenge preconceptions and the uneasy intersection of the West with the rest of the world. She captures details with passionate focus ... Connected by a consistent authenticity, these stories display a virtuosity in building on the most relatable emotional hooks ... remarkable.
...fantastic ... Each story is earnest and engrossing, holding surprising depth for tales so compact ... Visiting many of the themes she grapples with in her novels, Aboulela ties together her expanding oeuvre with this poignant, impressive collection.
Aboulela seldom dips beneath the surface of the narrative, and, when she does, she doesn’t linger. Given that so many of the settings and situations are similar across these stories, a sense of sameness sets in. And some of the shorter entries feel more like writing exercises ... An uneven collection from a gifted writer.