cover image The Night Counter

The Night Counter

Alia Yunis, . . Crown/Shaye Areheart, $24 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-307-45362-4

In this captivating debut, Yunis takes readers on a magic carpet ride examining the lives of Fatima Abdullah and her huge dysfunctional family. Imitating Scheherazade, Fatima—in a clever twist—spins her own tales to the legendary storyteller. And she has plenty of material: Fatima is dying, and more interested in her prized possessions—including a house in Lebanon—than in reuniting her splintered offspring and her estranged husband, Ibraham, whose enduring love is proved in a neat twist at the end of the novel. Fatima's family is all over the country, all with issues, including daughter Laila battling breast cancer in Detroit, openly gay actor grandson Amir in Los Angeles and pregnant great-granddaughter Aisha in Minneapolis. Gradually, Fatima learns that her true treasure isn't the house in Lebanon that she's pined after for decades, but her imperfect, loving family. Add in a bumbling neophyte FBI agent seeing al-Qaeda smoke where there is no fire and the result is a sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but always touching tale of a Middle Eastern family putting down deep roots on U.S. soil. (July)