November 21, 2022
Against the Loveless World
This is a remarkable book. It starts out in a ‘Cube’ which is a solitary confinement prison cell. The woman is rude to someone who comes to visit her, to check how she is.
At this point I am thinking, I’ll give it an hour, and if I’m still not liking it that will be enough for me. But within that hour I was hooked. This novel takes the reader from Palestine, to Kuwait, to Jordan and back to Palestine through the life of Nahr.
By the time her last visitor arrives in that Cube I am totally on Nahr’s side. I get why she reacts as she does to her well-meaning visitors.
The events described in this novel are set in 2002, as Israeli settlers moved into Palestinian lands. This novel is about a young girl growing up in Kuwait, as a refugee from Palestine, with her mother and grandmother.
The novel provides a different take on the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein than we received through the news. This is a good time for Nahr. It’s also a time when she marries a man who cannot love her, sending her into a spiral of secret attacks on her by men, overseen by Um Buraq, who is both a villain and a loyal friend.
When the Americans arrive in Kuwait the family has too flee into Amman, Jordan to begin again. Nahr’s brother’s dream of becoming a surgeon, that Nahr sacrificed so much for, is now impossible due to the torture he suffered during his time in prison in Kuwait. In contrast, Nahr’s mother suddenly has skills that are more valued, as she hand embroiders wedding gowns. But there is no clear place for Nahr in this society. She can only find low value jobs and is bored.
The family decides she needs to travel to Palestine to secure a divorce from the husband who left her. There she meets Bilal, the love of her life.
This is a political book, but it’s also a deeply personal story, about people living meaningful lives, having close connections with each other, but sacrificing everything that is personally valuable to them to make a dent in the occupation and destruction of their land, their homes, their lives.