Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Author . Graywolf $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1555973766

War and the tumult of adolescence leave their scars on the hearts of two Beirut-born sisters in this sharply drawn, moving debut about a family in exile. Marianna is 18 when her family—her older sister, Alaine; her Lebanese mother and her American father—flee their upper-class home in Beirut for New England in the 1980s. In Beirut, the cryptic, self-contained Alaine had been the difficult daughter; she was depressed and attempted suicide. For much of her youth, she kept a macabre collection of bullets, shrapnel and other war mementos. Marianna had idolized her, and at the same time felt it was her duty to be cheerful and spare her parents more worry. When the family moves to its sagging, shabby American house, the sisters reverse roles: Marianna finds their reduced circumstances and unfamiliar surroundings unbearable. She can barely get out of bed and feels betrayed when Alaine merrily immerses herself in home improvement projects, determined to adjust to their new future. Marianna narrates the story, weaving episodes from their lives in Beirut—ordinary adolescent milestones mingled with the horrors of war—with scenes of their present-day struggles in the U.S. Ward paints a vivid tableau that will be familiar to exiles everywhere: the father, a historian in Beirut, applying for a manager's job at the local supermarket; the familiar traditional meals that taste ineffably different in the new country; the parents gamely trying to rally their children's spirits while liable themselves to burst into tears or sink unexpectedly into grim silence. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 00/00/0000
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-55597-299-8
Show other formats
Discover what to read next