• A New York Times Editors’ Choice •
“Assured and beautifully crafted . . . Hassib is a natural, graceful writer with a keen eye for cultural difference. . . . [She] handles the anatomy of grief with great delicacy. . . . In the Language of Miracles should find a large and eager readership. For the beauty of the writing alone, Hassib deserves it.” —Monica Ali, The New York Times Book Review
“[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)
For readers of House of Sand and Fog, a mesmerizing debut novel of an Egyptian American family and the wrenching tragedy that tears their lives apart, from the author of A Pure Heart
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.
A family reckons with tragedy amid a storm of suspicion in Egyptian author Hassib's debut novel. Set in the early aughts, the story centers on the Al-Menshawys, an Egyptian family living in suburban New Jersey whose lives were irrevocably changed when Hosaam, the family's despair-ridden eldest son, killed himself and his ex-girlfriend, Natalie, the daughter of the Bradstreet family, who lives next door to the Al-Menshawys and were once their good friends. As the anniversary of the tragedy approaches, as well as a memorial organized by the Bradstreets, memories of the incident affect each of the Al-Menshawys differently. Patriarch Samir wants things to return to normal, while Nagla, his wife, descends into a spiral of self-blame. Khaled, their teenage son, distracts himself with the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, which he sees a metaphor for his own parents' flight from Egypt to the U.S., and "the fascinating possibility of finding the way back to a home that one has never known," while his younger sister, Fatima, turns toward traditional Muslim customs. The reader may wish Hassib had introduced more conflict and complexity into the plot, but the novel offers fascinating insight into the lives of American Muslims, and the prejudice with which they contended in the years after 9/11.
In The Language of Miracles
Very thought provoking read.
Lots of promise, but not quite there
It's clear Hassib is a talented writer and this book is original and generally very well written. And yet... For all the build up towards an end, when we finally make it there, the climax felt somewhat inauthentic and unsatisfying to me. Moreover, the aftermath was even more of a reach, introducing a retroactive view to the story that had not been explored up to that moment, making it more jarring. It almost felt to me that the ending of this book was horrid, as if the author grew tired of telling the story. The climax aftermath could have been 200 pages of intrigue and introspection from the point of view of each of the main characters. Instead, the book ended. Having become vested in each character, it felt as though some of them simply left me without resolution.