cover image Other Lives

Other Lives

Iman Humaydan, trans. from the Arabic by Michelle Hartman. Interlink, $15 trade

This meditative novel from Humaydan (B as in Beirut) is set in 1996 and concerns the journeys of alienated Lebanese expatriate Myriam. Formerly employed as a language tutor, she lives in Mombasa, Kenya, with her inattentive British husband, Chris, a doctor absorbed by his work developing a malaria vaccine. Left infertile after a traumatic abortion some years before, Myriam now yearns to bear children. Feeling bored and distant from Chris, she takes a return trip to Beirut, ostensibly to sell her family’s old home. Myriam meets the married journalist Nour at the Dubai airport, and they begin a passionate affair. After reaching Beirut, she continues her affair with Nour, while also thinking back to the tragic events which prompted her family to leave Lebanon—namely, a rocket strike that killed her brother Baha’ in 1978 during the Lebanese Civil War and left her father, Salama, with mentally debilitating head trauma. Myriam’s visit also allows her to reunite with Olga, her friend and lover when both were teenagers. By the end of Humaydan’s sad but satisfying book, readers should be pleased to see that Myriam has found, if perhaps not lasting happiness, then a degree of contentment. [em](June) [/em]