In a Pacific Northwest hospital far from the Rummani family's ancestral home in Palestine, the heart of a stillborn baby begins to beat and her skin turns vibrantly, permanently cobalt blue. On the same day, the Rummanis' centuries-old soap factory in Nablus is destroyed in an air strike. The family matriarch and keeper of their lore, Aunt Nuha, believes that the blue girl embodies their sacred history, harkening back to a time when the Rummanis were among the wealthiest soap-makers and their blue soap was a symbol of a legendary love.
Decades later, Betty returns to Aunt Nuha's gravestone, faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay in the only country she's ever known, or should she follow her heart and the woman she loves, perpetuating her family's cycle of exile? Betty finds her answer in partially translated notebooks that reveal her aunt's complex life and struggle with her own sexuality, which Nuha hid to help the family immigrate to the United States. But, as Betty soon discovers, her aunt hid much more than that.
There is a particular magic to stories about storytelling, especially when they use the metafictional element to probe into the very nature of reality and how we live inside of it ... A compelling and deeply empathetic narrative ... Grand, imaginative, poetic, loving.
Stirring ... There are elements of magic realism in this captivating novel about the importance of family and story, but more importantly, the tale is enriched by the presence of fully realized, multidimensional characters. Near the end of the novel, a character observes that there is no truth except in old women’s tales. The same thing is true in the pages of this splendid first novel.
Through an unusual structure that bucks narrative convention, Cypher explores the blurry lines between storytelling and history, memory and identity, exile and home ... Though Betty narrates the novel in the first person, she often feels like a peripheral character ... An intriguing debut.