cover image No Land to Light on

No Land to Light on

Yara Zgheib. Atria, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-982187-42-2

Zgheib’s moving if unbalanced sophomore effort (after The Girls of 17 Swann Street) chronicles how a 2017 U.S. executive order to ban travelers from Muslim countries from entering the country affects a married couple. Hadi Deeb, who suffered torture and imprisonment under the shabiha militia during the Syrian civil war, is invited in 2015 to speak at Harvard University about his life. There, he meets student Sama Zayat, and they soon get married. Sama left Syria to further her education shortly before the war escalated, and her dreamy reminiscences differ from Hadi’s memories of the country’s destruction. After Hadi hears of his father’s ailing health, he flies to see him in Jordan, but upon his attempt to return home to Boston, he is deported from Logan Airport to Jordan. Alone, Sama reels with fear and prematurely delivers their son, Naseem, whose odds of living are fairly low. Sama ultimately must choose between her husband and her adopted country. Many of the details leading up to this moment are heartfelt, with lots of heavy drama, which makes Zgheib’s open-ended conclusion feel a bit discordant and unsatisfying. This leaves a strange taste, but for the most part readers will enjoy Zgheib’s story of hope and perseverance. Agent: Janet Silver, Aevitas Creative Management. (Jan.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the country to which one of the characters was deported.