cover image Out of It

Out of It

Selma Dabbagh. Bloomsbury, $14 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-60819-876-4

In this important and captivating debut novel, the ravages of occupied Gaza alternately unite and undo a proud and fiercely intellectual Palestinian family, the Mujaheds. As their history unfolds and their future is etched out against a violent and unknowable landscape, the struggle for a voice becomes equally more urgent and more elusive. Regrettably, the book begins in awkward spurts, with names, places, and memories revolving too fast for readers to make sense of who’s who. But once the family is established—Iman, the sister, who doesn’t cover her hair; Sabri, the younger brother, whose legs were lost to a car bomb; and Rashid, the other brother, who’s going to London on scholarship—the book picks up momentum and the prose builds with increasing clarity. Incidental moments are often the most disarming and exquisite. Early on, Iman acquires a bouquet of flowers that she absentmindedly passes off to a shopkeeper, who pulls back at the sight: “Oh, no, miss. I can’t. They take too much water.” While horrendous acts of violence, both at the hands of the Israelis and as a result of Palestinian infighting, threaten and destroy, it is in the indignity of not being able to water flowers that despair becomes tangible and that the tragic loss of life and culture resonates most profoundly. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)