Farah’s exploration of the challenges of assimilation is a worthy goal, but a fair number of plot elements remain underexplored in a story that unfolds more like a dramatic play than a novel, complete with sudden exits by key characters. Repeated allusions to the 1920s Norwegian classic Giants in the Earth, which tracks early Norwegian assimilation in North America, feel forced. Nevertheless, Farah offers a soulful look at the divide between zealous ideology and secularism.
[Farah's] besieged-but-steadfast equanimity provides relatively safe haven from the prevailing tension and strife ... As one of the characters puts it, 'Art is a humanizer,' and Farah’s insistence on isolating the humanity in even the most difficult characters is a beacon of hope against fear and loathing.
Sacrifices depth for a rapid, lackluster jaunt through the complications of Somali immigrants in contemporary Norway ... The rush of events makes the novel disappointedly abrupt, and the difficulties of side characters (including the shallow treatment of Saafi’s trauma from being raped in a refugee camp) muddy an already convoluted plot. While Farah captures the struggles of Somalis navigating the space between European nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists, diffuse storytelling blunts the work’s impact.