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Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.


Crescent - Diana Abu-Jaber I didn't think I was going to like this one, given that I just read and disliked another novel about Muslims living in an Anglo land. I'm happy to report that I was wrong.

The novel tells the story of Sirine, who lives with her cranky-but-lovable uncle in "Teherangeles" and who works as a chef in a Lebanese-Middle Eastern restaurant. She meets and falls in love with a Han, a professor who is a wanted man in Iraq (because of his former association with Americans there before Saddam's revolution). Han's family is still there, but for him to return to his country might prove fatal. The evolution of the couple's story is interspersed with the uncle's fantastical tale of a young Arab man who might or might not have grown up to be Omar Sharif (!) and the mother who searches for him with the help of a dog, an old mermaid, a jinn, and assorted other characters.

The book's structure reminds me of the film version of The Princess Bride--the grandfather's storytelling alternating with the events concerning Buttercup and Westley. Note, though, that the fable told in Crescent has no moral--the uncle says so specifically. :-)

I really liked the writing. The tastes, smells, sounds, touches all come through loud and clear, but somehow they're all rolled up in a gauzy veil. I can completely believe there is a Mideast enclave just like this in Los Angeles. Very well done. Minor nitpicks: someone should correct the copy on the book jacket--it contradicts the text in a few places. There are also a few typos in the text itself, but not enough to irritate.

Some of the characters are realized more fully than others, but I didn't mind so much. Sirine seems realistic, and it was refreshing to have an older female protagonist who wasn't desperate to get married or have kids. The only drawback to her character was that she seemed a bit passive for most of the story. This may be a cultural difference, though.

I wish we had read this for the book club instead of the other novel.