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In the Language of Miracles: A Novel by…
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In the Language of Miracles: A Novel (2015)

by Rajia Hassib

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I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book through Goodreads in exchange for an honest view.

This is a beautifully written book. The author has a true talent for detailed descriptions.

I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives shown in the narrative as the reader explores how a tragic event effects the various family members.

The reason I gave this book three starts is because, plot-wise, the story is slow and not much happens. This is more of a book about personal growth rather than one with an active plot.

However, it was still well written and really delves into the psychology of humans and how each person learns to live in the world, which has always fascinated me. The ties to religion and culture and how multiple cultures intersect was very interesting.

Overall, a good read. ( )
  CareBear36 | Jan 16, 2016 |
Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy immigrated to the United States from their home in Egypt in search of the American dream. It wasn't always easy, but in suburban Summerset, New Jersey, they thought they had found it. Samir's medical practice was successful, the couple found fast friends in the family next door, and their children were growing up knowing the luxuries of American life. But, when a heinous crime is committed by their oldest son, Hossam, the family is plunged into grief and the community they once felt a valuable part of turns forcefully against them. In the Language of Miracles is the story of the Al-Menshawy family's struggles in the aftermath of their tragic awakening from the American dream that should have been their reality.

In the Language of Miracles is a story of faith and community: having it, finding it, losing it. Mother Nagla struggles with her loss of faith in face of tragedy, her inability to match the piety of her mother and her best friend that increases her fear that it was a shortfall in herself that caused tragedy to befall her family. Grandmother Ehsan is steeped in faith, perpetually murmuring prayers and waving incense, providing holy water for healing. Her faith imbues her every action and is so genuine that it can tear down cultural walls but can't rescue her daughter's family from their grief and struggle. Daughter Fatima is seeking her own path to faith, uncertain of whether to pursue her family's more Americanized ways or don the headscarves of her more religious friends. Son Khaled is a different story completely. Caught between the shame and treachery brought on by his brother's act and the expectations of a father whose hopes are now pinned upon him alone, Khaled takes refuge in studying monarch butterflies, how they migrate thousands of miles south to winter only to have a new generation of butterflies return north - a practice that seems to have parallels even in his own family.

Each of Hassib's characters is fleshed out and fully realized, from Khaled who is coming of age in the shadow of tragedy to his father, whose stubbornness makes him easy for readers to dislike, but his ultimate wish and goal to preserve the life and community he had striven so hard to attain, is ultimately sympathetic. I wished for an ending that offered a bit more closure, but that should take nothing away from this book that seems in every way to be an authentic exploration of the immigrant experience, an honest portrayal of the Muslim faith, and a compelling picture of a broken family knitting themselves back together after tragedy. ( )
  yourotherleft | Jan 3, 2016 |
There is much to like about the authors writing and this story. She touched on many things that are difficult, such as the way Muslims are treated in this country, grief and mental illness. I appreciated the way these issues were perceived by some of the family members and how it affected their individual lives.

Most touching to me was how the grandmother was an integral part of the story and an integral part of the culture. It was a pleasure to know how much Khaled and his sister loved her, that is what made the story so endearing to me.

I am always disgusted and disheartened when I am in the grips of a book and then I read "sit Indian-style." Maybe the author was not referring to the stereotype that plagues the Indigenous people of America but the term that represents sitting in the Lotus Position from India. Being that she is from Egypt I will assume the latter. (maybe the term is offensive to the latter also?) ( )
  Jolynne | Nov 8, 2015 |
Very well written. Excellent at gradually building tension. Found the ending somewhat disappointing, although it was probably more realistic than where I thought it might be going. I enjoy reading about other cultures,religions etc but found the discussions about faith in this book became tiresome. I would like to have read more about the family before the tragedy occured, more of a chronological story. Left with too many questions about Hossam. Slow family drama well worth reading. I would give this author another try. ( )
  flippinpages | Oct 6, 2015 |
As I finished this debut novel, I thought “So what is the big chasm between Christianity and Islam?” So many of the precepts are the same. Dr. Ben Carson should read this book and then explain why a Muslim should not be elected President of the United States. Other presidential candidates should read it and then explain why immigrants are so bad for the US. I look forward to more books by this first-time author. Her writing is beautiful and the relationship of Grandma to the family and the ending showing how important she and her beliefs are even after her death made me close the book smiling through tears. This is an Egyptian immigrant story, a story that could happen to anyone who has a child mentally ill, but the consequences are made worse by the cultural differences in a small town. How do each member deal with their guilt in the suicide of their oldest son/brother who compounded the grief by killing his girlfriend, the daughter of the next-door neighbor as well. ( )
  brangwinn | Oct 3, 2015 |
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For Kamel, Sarah, and Yousef
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When Khaled fell sick at age nine, his grandmother descended on his parents' house and promised him healing.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525428135, Hardcover)

“[A] sensitive, finely wrought debut . . . sharply observant of immigrants’ intricate relationships to their adopted homelands, this exciting novel announces the arrival of a psychologically and socially astute new writer.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A mesmerizing debut novel of an Egyptian American family and the wrenching tragedy that tears their lives apart


Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Narrated a year after Hosaam and Natalie’s deaths, Rajia Hassib’s heartfelt novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days leading up to the memorial service that the Bradstreets have organized to mark the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community, Khaled, their surviving son, finds himself living in the shadow of his troubled brother. Struggling under the guilt and pressure of being the good son, Khaled turns to the city in hopes of finding happiness away from the painful memories home conjures. Yet he is repeatedly pulled back home to his grandmother, Ehsan, who arrives from Egypt armed with incense, prayers, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter’s family. In Ehsan, Khaled finds either a true hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.

Writing with unflinchingly honest prose, Rajia Hassib tells the story of one family pushed to the brink by tragedy and mental illness, trying to salvage the life they worked so hard to achieve. The graceful, elegiac voice of In the Language of Miracles paints tender portraits of a family’s struggle to move on in the wake of heartbreak, to stay true to its traditions, and above all else, to find acceptance and reconciliation.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 01 Jul 2015 19:43:46 -0400)

The affluent Al-Menshawy family find their American dream shattered when a devastating turn of events leaves their eldest son and their neighbor's daughter dead, and, becoming pariahs in their upscale New Jersey community, they struggle to keep their family together.… (more)

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