Mafi (A Very Large Expanse of Sea) follows Iranian American hijabi Shadi as she struggles to overcome mounting loss following the death of her brother, Mehdi, after 9/11. Shadi, her sister Shayda, and their parents grieve in isolation; as their father suffers two heart attacks and their mother approaches a full collapse, the siblings’ already fraught relationship grows even tenser. Emotionally cut off by her best friend, fellow Iranian American Zahra—who resents Shadi’s growing romance with Zahra’s brother, Ali—Shadi feels increasingly forgotten despite Ali’s attempts to offer support. Shadi’s narration, densely lyrical, even purple, frequently results in confusing metaphors and scenes, while underdeveloped secondary characters and an abrupt ending that feels disconnected from the novel’s larger themes detract from its portrayal of a Muslim family in America in the years after 9/11. Even so, Mafi clearly and movingly illustrates how grief can escalate uncontrollably and seep into every facet of life. Ages 13–up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (June)
The text of this review has been edited for nuance.
Reviewed on : 04/22/2021 Release date: 06/01/2021 Genre: Children's