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.
Beirut-born author Yara Zgheib’s skills have become even more finely honed ... Her devastating second novel, No Land to Light On, is an illuminating, intimate look at the Syrian refugee crisis and the immigrant experience in America during the Trump administration ... Zgheib’s novel deftly documents Sama’s and Hadi’s lives in Syria and the circumstances that prompted them to leave, as well as their ensuing experiences as American immigrants. The narrative is purposefully fragmented, an artful reflection of the ways in which the lives of immigrants and refugees are uprooted and disrupted. Within the context of a tense and bittersweet love story—one with a healthy dose of nostalgia for days when hope and possibility seemed likely to prevail—Zgheib offers nuanced insights into the complex psychology of and challenges faced by displaced people, and effectively makes the consequences of anti-immigrant sentiments and policies feel personal to all readers. Written in soul-searing prose, No Land to Light On is an essential, compassionate story that reinstates a sense of humanity for the countless people affected by U.S. travel bans.