The question of not only who has the right to protect, but also where something, or someone, should live, resurfaces again and again, both in this book and in a larger cultural conversation, as well as questions of intention and culpability ... Though the novel contains elements of a quest — Joseph himself takes off for Cairo soon after receiving the package — there is no final, big reveal. The deep pleasures of this novel come from the interconnecting narratives and how they inform one another: a pulsing energy in the fingertips, or a bleeding hand, or a relationship between cousins, or a love affair ... The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is only one story, centered around one small fragment. But it’s its own very real act of preservation, a fight against erasure, a mingling of history and imagination and mystery.
His sophomore novel...delivers in polyphonic textures a timeless yet contemporary story set in ancient and modern Cairo and Berkeley ... Lukas writes marvelously about Old Cairo, a city he cherishes ... Ultimately, it all loops back to each person being a hero of his or her own story while navigating in worlds we never entirely understand.
...absolutely intriguing ... This is wonderful historical fiction, a novel that entices the reader to truly care about the historical artifacts revered by the characters in its pages. Highly recommended, and a great read!
Lukas' warmly affecting sophomore work largely examines what happens to all that life, its memories and stories, when the people experiencing it are gone ... This time around, Lukas more overtly bucks preconceptions within his tale of Muslim-Jewish relationships, ultimately creating a more thematically focused second novel ... Novels like Lukas' can believe in the potential of another version of the world, whether we call it possible or magical or both.
Lukas’ (The Oracle of Stamboul, 2011) lyrical novel draws readers into a classic tale of family secrets, forbidden love, and religious rivalry that spans generations ... The initially parallel stories of Joseph’s voyage of self-discovery and the 1897 quest of British twin sisters and scholars Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson to rescue the synagogue’s endangered sacred scrolls intersect at a crucial juncture as family legends unfurl, coalesce, and enlighten.
...in his exploration of some 10 centuries of Cairo’s history, including times when the city’s Jews and Muslims lived side by side in relative harmony, Lukas at least hints that another era of peaceful coexistence is not beyond imagining. An appealing family drama illuminates the fascinating story of a famous repository of Jewish documents, the Cairo Geniza.
Like a contemporary Lawrence Durrell, Lukas (The Oracle of Stamboul) turns the Egyptian city into a tantalizingly seductive place of mystery. And although the story is dramatically diffuse, it is redeemed by the author’s vision of a more hopeful world where Jews and Muslims come together over a shared cultural heritage.