The author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street returns with a new novel about Hadi and Sama, a young Syrian couple trying to build a family in the United States. When Sama is five months pregnant, Hadi's father dies in Amman, where he travels for the funeral. On Hadi's way home to Boston, he is detained and ultimately sent back to the Middle East, a victim of the Trump administration's ban on arrivals from Muslim-majority nations.
In elegant prose, Zgheib skillfully mingles her protagonists’ memories with a nail-biting account of their 2017 ordeal to craft a narrative rich in metaphors and complex, believable characters ... A fascinatingly open-ended conclusion is fueled by decisions Hadi and Sama make that will stir lively debate among readers. It’s a fitting close to a novel alive to the ambiguities of the American and the immigrant experience.
... glittering language...brings emotional resonance to the effects of monstrous policies ... Hadi’s discombobulation after landing in America is conveyed in synesthetic detail ... The color blue recurs a few times in Zgheib’s narrative, and its various shades create compelling illustrations of how emotion tints experience ... Zgheib evokes all those emotions, summoning empathy for the victims of policies crafted in an empathy vacuum ... There is Hadi’s pain but especially Sama’s postpartum saudade. The author makes no attempt to soften the pain, which the reader shares. And yet much of her novel is hopeful. The separation comes in like thunder to break a happy story apart. Zgheib’s poetic language serves her well in conveying that story. But much of its power lies also in the playful way Sama and Hadi experience new love, the sense of open possibility that immigration can still represent.
... a poignant, evocative novel ... The refugee crisis has been described in numerous works of fiction and journalism, but never before has it been written with such humanity and intimacy...Zgheib has maintained her now signature style of poetic and fragmented, but surprisingly complex and layered prose. But where she used it to describe guilt and reclamation in The Girls at 17 Swann Street<.em>, here she pushes her writing to new bounds in describing the aching pain and beauty of love and the finding of one’s home in another’s soul ... In a clever convention, Zgheib lays her narrative against Sama’s dissertation studies of the migratory patterns of birds, using the metaphor of migration to highlight the stark realities --- and beautiful universal truths --- of the plight of the refugee ... Paired with her achingly beautiful writing and ability to distill huge, universal themes in small, intimate moments, Hadi and Sama’s fight for freedom and a place to call home is breathtaking and unforgettable.