Originally published in France, this debut novel traces a young Muslim woman's coming of age and her struggle with her attraction to women within a culture that rejects queerness and a family that has made love and sexuality of any kind a taboo subject.
With persuasive openness [the protagonist] calls out her health issues (bad asthma and allergies) and introduces her family. In just a few brushstrokes she paints a vivid portrait of her mother who, as a traditional Muslim female is tethered for life to her 'kingdom' (the kitchen), while her father runs a tight ship, tolerates no dissent and beats his three daughters with a belt ... A key feature of Fatima Daas' outstanding literary style is limiting herself to straightforward statements and simple sentences. She distributes her pieces of information so cleverly that the text remains engaging and open at every point. Daas works with the conflicts that define her main protagonist, but reveals experiences and insights that show that the narrator has a firm grip on the strands of the story at all times ... Fatima Daas has written a novel that—in a piercing, insistent rhythm, but not without poetic qualities—describes the life of a young woman whose feelings lurch between doubt and aversion but who also discovers her own potential for great passion. The result is a refreshingly topical portrait rendered beautifully from the original French ... The clear, concise sentences allow us as readers to sense the protagonist’s inner turmoil on each and every page and keep us in suspense until the very end.
Vergnaud’s translation deftly handles these tender, delicate vignettes, and honours the intercalation of Arabic words and wordplay that Daas interweaves in her spare narrative. Despite the little presence of descriptive writing, atmosphere and tone are not exactly sacrificed; rather, like the most vivid traits of memory, select specifics are emphasised in further relief, brought to attention in a deliciously concise style of writing ... With precise, spare paragraphs, one can be susceptible to overlooking what these experiences disclose. The Last One is a novel that challenges what constitutes faith and its validity, between society’s shared meaning and love in all its variant forms—the interdisciplinary and complex nature of love as subject, explored in mental and physical wellbeing, religious faith, sexuality, romance, parenting, and childhood. In dislodging taboo and its simplistic designations, it grapples instead with the multiplicity of our identity, exploring the full range of how we may fight to find meaning in the fragmented nature of life.
... a mesmerizing, semiautobiographical novel about the meanings of identity, family, and sexuality ... Woven throughout the novel are rich etymologies, folklore, and religious beliefs. The straightforward style is accentuated by the repetition of biographical information and the nuanced changes in the history of her identity. Fatima’s fears and desires impact her relationships as she grapples with her truths. The structure is taut, showcasing the passage of time and Fatima’s shifting identities. The Last One is a fresh addition to queer fiction—a deep and original debut novel featuring a Muslim lesbian who is looking for acceptance and belonging.