My Thousand & One Nights: A Novel of Mecca

Raja Alem, Author, Tom McDonough, Author Syracuse University Press $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8156-0866-0
The most richly detailed character in this collaborative novel is the city of Mecca, with its bewitching winds and floods, animals and spirits casting shadows over the family whose trials provide the elusive narrative. The narrator is Zohr, an upper-class girl whose letters (79 in total) to a character in The Thousand and One Nights form a jumbled narrative that touches frequently on female sexuality and the spirit world. The sections follow no chronological order, nor do they build upon each other to develop the conflict promised early on, the ""take-no-prisoners battles"" between Zohr and her aunts, especially the wild Jummo, who as a child was possessed by an animal spirit. Instead, the book is a compilation of passionately written yet confusing vignettes that display the powers of geniis, spirits, and dervishes. The authors (who collaborated before on the novel Fatma) present a dizzying picture of Mecca's mysticism, but the scattershot structure and lack of direction are frustrating.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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