Alameddine’s spectacular novel is rendered through the refreshingly honest lens of Dr. Mina ... Dr. Mina is the storyteller the refugees deserve: respected by the Europeans, but steeped in their traditions and history ... This is the first novel I’ve read that gives ample room to the ugliness of certain camp volunteers (the bored, the coddled, those battling pangs of uselessness) and the many humiliations some inflict on the displaced. But calling out anyone who gave up a vacation to meet boats seems ungrateful, so the refugees smile for their rescuers’ camera-phones and keep quiet ... Alameddine’s irreverent prose evokes the old master storytellers from my own Middle Eastern home, their observations toothy and full of wit, returning always to human absurdity ... Again and again, Dr. Mina cracks open the strange, funny and cruel social mores of East and West. She shows us that acceptance and rejection exist across borders and often manifest in surprising ways ... Throughout the book, Dr. Mina addresses a blocked and disillusioned Lebanese writer who, having seen too much displacement and horror, finally breaks. I found this mysterious unnamed listener deeply poignant.
The Wrong End of the Telescope...is as complex and multifaceted as its narrator. The story is a shape-shifting kaleidoscope, a collection of moments—funny, devastating, absurd—that bear witness to the violence of war and displacement without sensationalizing it ... This is not a novel about transformation. Its strength lies in its slipperiness, its thoughtful engagement with the messy in-betweens and the harsh but revelatory realities of liminality ... Mina, her fellow volunteers and the refugees they meet are all seeking something ... The Wrong End of the Telescope is a gorgeously written, darkly funny and refreshingly queer witness to that seeking.
... a peculiar novel, intentionally—a prismatic, sui generis story that’s unafraid of humor while addressing a humanitarian crisis, threading a needle between that urge to witness and the recognition that doing so may be pointless ... Alameddine finds a consistent tone ... Sumaiya is experiencing a crisis atop a crisis, but Alameddine wants to keep medical or political solutions at a distance. Most urgent for the refugee is clinging to her dignity ... In Telescope, Alameddine attempts to universalize Mina’s experience on Lesbos, but not out of a callow urge to suggest that her dilemmas—or yours—are comparable to the Syrians’. But if the solution to the crisis resides in empathy, a reminder of our own travels and our own uncertainty might be a meaningful step ... Blind optimism and pat solutions are for other novels. The prevailing mood here is resignation, but of a gimlet-eyed sort, rooted in an unwillingness to give up entirely. The answer is somewhere, but not exclusively in a book.