cover image Mirage


Soheir Khashoggi, Lillian Africano. Forge, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85835-3

In her breathless, larger-than-life fiction debut, Khashoggi paints in glamorous and startling colors the segregated ``women's world'' of traditional upper-class Islamic culture, in which females are often showered with luxuries as well as abuse. Set in the fictitious, oil-rich Arab country of al-Remal, the narrative traces how heroine Amira Badir discovers the dangers she faces in her native culture--and how she escapes it in order to save her life. As a child, Amira witnessed a married friend stoned to death for bearing the child of her lover; the abuse she herself suffers occurs within an arranged marriage to the alternately tender and sadistic Prince Ali al-Rashad, who on one occasion nearly kills Amira, on another tries to frame her as being unfaithful. A French doctor devises a successful plan to secret the heroine and her young son out of the country and arranges for her new identity (including plastic surgery) and passage to relative safety in the U.S. As Amira--now called Jenna--transforms herself into a Harvard-educated psychologist who specializes in battered women, she lives in constant fear that her husband's henchmen will find and kill her. Ultimately--and predictably--she finds the courage to destroy the ``mirage'' of her life and to tell her story to the world. Khashoggi's depiction of the rarefied, claustrophobic lives of many privileged Arab women, as well as of the jet-set world of their families, adds depth and sparkle to a story otherwise constructed from the fantasy and melodrama of a romance novel. 75,000 first printing; Literary Guild selection; foreign sales to seven countries. (Feb.)