Hello! This one’s hard for me to review, and I haven’t figured out why yet. The short story is this: a woman whose husband was killed by Muslim extremists has a short rendezvous with a married Muslim man she meets under run-of-the-mill circumstances (some kind of trade show, I think?). As I said, that’s the very short story, and if I add too much more I’ll be editorializing rather than summarizing.
So: here are a few things I thought while reading it or upon reflection… Intense emotion is so disorienting. Feelings are hard! They’re confusing, and this book is confusing — it’s vague (the characters are nameless, for example), and everything feels not quite real. This particular brand of sex is a stand-in for a lot of shit, and some of the sex is gratuitously extreme. The cheater man is pretty likable. Why has he made this choice? It’s addressed, but feels too simple to be realistic. The widow doesn’t even know what it is she wants to do. The cheater’s wife — what’s she for, here? Is she the outside world, the sane part? If not, why is she even in the story at all? Just so he’s the grounded one? Or to add to the man’s investment? Back to the widow — she’s of course dealing with tragedy and its particular set of horrific circumstances but also with the fact that her marriage wasn’t entirely satisfying. She’s working that out, too, along with her new(ish) aloneness. Both parties are trying to figure out what they are, but they both find out it’s not this.
I returned the book before writing down more of the context of this quote, which another review singled out and which I find particularly interesting: “Day by day, month after month, without her attending to it, her grief had subtly changed its shape, until what was left was not quite grief at all, but something she could only describe as desire.” Really? Desire for what? Revenge? Resolution? Relief from loneliness? I mean, maybe, okay. Grief hasn’t ever taken that turn for me, but it does do fucked up things.
SPOILER ALERT KINDA, REPEAT SPOILER ALERT, KINDA The sex scenes, even before they get really fucked up are SO not erotic, just creepy. It feels like something you shouldn’t be seeing. It’s too private. You know when someone TMIs you? Like that, and you’re uncomfortable…maybe you’re both uncomfortable.
This was published in 2004. Would it been different to read it then? I think so.
That’s all I’ve got. I don’t particularly recommend it, but it has provided food for thought.