I mostly liked The Reluctant Fundamentalist but I thought the weird framing device of a conversation in a cafe was actually quite bad.
This novel did not have quite a strange device at the center of its story, but it did have a little trickery.
This novel kind of starts us off in Syria, but the ambiguity of the narration suggests it could be a lot of different places in the world. As Nadia and Saeed meet, fall in….something, avoid and circulate sex and marriage, their city falls apart around them. Pulled closer together by expediency more than love….or a love for each other that is not the same as being in love. As the situation around them grows increasingly more severe, they leave.
They simply leave. Here’s the trick.
They wake up in Mykonos. And then in London. And then in California. As the novel progresses, the couple’s experience begin to not….universalize, but divert and digress into different versions of the same decision. It’s not a multi-universe kind of deal, but it is a way of telling many stories through the one.
In addition, the novel peppers little vignettes of other migrant experiences around the world in the last few years and the coming years.
Nativists who are truly terrible, refugees who are complicated and not monolithic spread out against both specific and general settings in this novel.
It’s real, it’s timeless, it’s specific, and it’s deceptively simplistic.
I do think it’s still a little tricky as a concept, but the writing is fresh feeling and meditative.
And for what it’s worth, I read it straight through.