Mother of All Pigs

Malu Halasa. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (259p) ISBN 978-1-944700-34-8
Halasa’s debut novel focuses on a Jordanian family marked by an inability to discuss problems. Caught between their minority Christian heritage and the successive waves of Muslim refugees, the Sabas family struggles to stay afloat as the Syrian civil war rages nearby. Traditional matriarch Fadhma mourns that most of her 13 children have emigrated to the United States and that her stepson Hussein drinks. Her adult daughter, Samira seems resigned to her old maid role, but takes on dangerous missions for a Syrian women’s political organization. Hussein’s foray into pig farming, aided by his mercenary and profiteering uncle, ensures a level of wealth for the family but raises the hackles of the local Muslim population. Into this heady mix of social pressures, two new arrivals threaten the delicate stability of the family: Fadhma’s granddaughter Muna comes to Jordan from America seeking to understand the life her father fled, and, almost simultaneously, a former army subordinate of Hussein’s appears and roils his suppressed memories. The swirl of secrets, diverging story lines, flashbacks, and even interior monologues from a pig sometimes confuses. Still, Halasa’s sharp critiques and deadpan humor make for a captivating exploration of the intricacies of the modern Middle East. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/25/2017
Release date: 11/01/2017
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