From the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street comes a “masterful story of tragedy and redemption” (Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses) “written in soul-searing prose” (BookPage, starred review) about a young Syrian couple in the throes of new love on the cusp of their bright future when a travel ban rips them apart on the eve of their son’s premature birth.
Sama and Hadi are a young Syrian couple in love, dreaming of their future in the country that brought them together. Sama came to Boston years before on a prestigious Harvard scholarship; Hadi landed there as a sponsored refugee from a bloody civil war. Now, they are giddily awaiting the birth of their son, a boy whose native language will be freedom and belonging.
When Sama is five months pregnant, Hadi’s father dies suddenly, and Hadi decides to fly back to Jordan for the funeral. He leaves America, promising his wife he’ll be gone only for a few days. On the date of his return, Sama waits for him at the arrivals gate, but he doesn’t appear. As the minutes and then hours pass, she becomes increasingly alarmed, unaware that Hadi has been stopped by US Customs and Border Protection, detained for questioning, and deported.
Achingly intimate yet poignantly universal, No Land to Light On is “a tense, moving novel about the meaning of home, the risks of exile, the power of nations, and the power of love” (Kirkus Reviews).
Zgheib's moving if unbalanced sophomore effort (after The Girls of 17 Swann Street) chronicles how a 2017 U.S. executive order to ban travelers from Muslim countries from entering the country affects a married couple. Hadi Deeb, who suffered torture and imprisonment under the shabiha militia during the Syrian civil war, is invited in 2015 to speak at Harvard University about his life. There, he meets student Sama Zayat, and they soon get married. Sama left Syria to further her education shortly before the war escalated, and her dreamy reminiscences differ from Hadi's memories of the country's destruction. After Hadi hears of his father's ailing health, he flies to see him in Jordan, but upon his attempt to return home to Boston, he is deported from Logan Airport to Jordan. Alone, Sama reels with fear and prematurely delivers their son, Naseem, whose odds of living are fairly low. Sama ultimately must choose between her husband and her adopted country. Many of the details leading up to this moment are heartfelt, with lots of heavy drama, which makes Zgheib's open-ended conclusion feel a bit discordant and unsatisfying. This leaves a strange taste, but for the most part readers will enjoy Zgheib's story of hope and perseverance. Agent: Janet Silver, Aevitas Creative Management. Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the country to which one of the characters was deported.