After years away from her family's homeland, and healing from an affair with an established director, stage actress Sonia Nasir returns to Palestine to visit her older sister Haneen. While Haneen stayed and made a life commuting to Tel Aviv to teach at the university, Sonia remained in London to focus on her burgeoning acting career and now dissolute marriage. Once at Haneen's, Sonia meets the charismatic and candid Mariam, a local director, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. As opening night draws closer it becomes clear just how many invasive and violent obstacles stand before a troupe of Palestinian actors. Amidst it all, the life Sonia once knew starts to give way to the daunting, exhilarating possibility of finding a new self in her ancestral home.
Enter Ghost, though contemporary, is thoroughly infused with Palestine’s past — and thoroughly haunted by Sonia’s. Hammad, who is both a delicate writer and an exact one, intertwines the two, taking care to give Sonia as many personal ghosts as she does historical ones ... In Enter Ghost, concealment and subterfuge end poorly, as the title — and Hamlet — would suggest. Indeed, the novel seems to argue, real growth and connection, both political and personal, cannot begin until everyone’s ghosts have emerged from hiding. Art is, if nothing else, a powerful tool for coaxing them out.
Fiction has an uneasy relationship with politics, and American writing in particular tends to avoid the Palestinian issue — a problem identified in the text as 'largely a case of preaching to the deaf and to the choir.' It’s an obstacle Hammad negotiated in her 2019 debut, The Parisian (about British Mandate Palestine), which established her as a writer with an uncanny combination of skills. She is at once able to trace broad social and historical terrains without losing her grasp of particulars, giving a surgical finesse to her writing about the human personality ... You don’t, however, need to be a Shakespeare buff to appreciate this reimagined classic — Mariam and her cast explicitly discuss how malleable the play is in its West Bank setting. The novel is aware of its fourth wall without seeming coy, and the occasional writing in script format is unexpected and exciting. It succeeds, too, in rising beyond a specific ekphrasis to a wider meditation on the exchange between a work of art and its context ... succeeds as that rare fictive project that invites several audiences to pay attention.
Assured and formidable ... The cast’s banter—sometimes hilarious, sometimes aggressive—is a vital counterpoint to Sonia’s tendency to Hamlet-esque handwringing. Scenes of rehearsals rendered as play scripts provide anticipated respites from her smart but gravely serious (at times somewhat stiff) narration. And as the play becomes more and more the thing, Sonia’s tone warms considerably.