cover image Sonora


Hannah Lillith Assadi. Soho, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-61695-792-6

Ahlam, the narrator of this wise and poetic debut novel, grows up in the desert suburbs of Phoenix with a Palestinian father and an Israeli mother. The conflict raging overseas between Palestine and Israel provide the tense backdrop to her family life, even as she lives mostly in her imagination, the victim of startlingly vivid fever dreams that might also be premonitions. Then, in her freshman year of high school she meets Laura, a girl who was struck by lightning as a child, and the two form an intense bond that carries them through early experiments with drugs, alcohol, and sex, their friendship secured by a series of shared experiences that ultimately lead them to a mysterious man’s loft in Brooklyn, where much of their tempestuous shared adulthood will play out. Both vaguely pursue careers in the arts while also succumbing to a dangerously party-fueled lifestyle that threatens to break apart the fragile lives they have built together. Glimpses of the otherworldly abound, alongside an abiding interest in the cosmos, and Assadi’s lyrical prose nicely complements these preoccupations with the unreal or the ungraspable. The structure, moving back and forth in time and space, adds a sense of the magical to a sometimes tragic but always beautiful coming-of-age story. (Mar.)