A misfit Palestinian boy is pressured into a suicide bombing by intimidating classmates. A woman is returned to her family in Kuwait after being held captive in Iraq for ten years. Among these ripped-from-the-headlines tales are stories and vignettes about everyday life in the Middle East. A pair of young twins echo each other’s speech, their voices ricocheting back and forth. A Kuwaiti girl renamed Amerika fills a box with as much of the US as she can, storing cat’s eye marbles, the wrapper of a Baby Ruth bar, and American idioms written on scraps of paper. Teenagers make out at parties, feel the pangs of first love, and write secret diaries.
Mai Al-Nakib’s short story collection The Hidden Light of Objects is a dreamy, beautiful portrayal of the lives of ordinary people in countries like Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine. She effortlessly balances the mundane with the earth-shattering as she tackles everything from class trips and troubled marriages to the ravages of war and the detriment of oil mines on the environment. Her writing feels almost mystical, as if her stories are part folklore.
Adding to the dreamlike feel of this collection, many of the stories are connected. Some characters and incidents turn up in multiple stories, giving the reader multiple perspectives that sometimes span decades. I loved the way these stories and characters are woven together to form a cohesive whole.
The Hidden Light of Objects is a graceful depiction of life in a troubled part of the world.
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