|FABER & FABER|
the guardian Tue 13 November 2012
Following the breakdown of her marriage, Egyptian émigrée Hend and her eight-year-old son begin a new life in Brooklyn. An aspiring writer, Hend possesses an acute sensibility, but somehow never quite succeeds in harnessing it to the creative process. Instead she spends her days mopping floors in Dunkin' Donuts and agonising over the wellbeing of her son, whose vulnerability in this new cultural setting is exacerbated by his fear that she will desert him. "Change", the buzzword of Obama, who has just won his first presidential term, is a key theme: that and disappointed expectation. Hend and her fellow immigrants have big dreams, yet the freedom they seek is mired in the pasts they are desperate to escape. Interweaving the present day with Hend's childhood memories, al-Tahawy's narrative highlights the fissures between east and west, exploring cultural, religious and sexual differences. Hend, with her superstitious fatalism and borderline hysteria, is an awkward and often unattractive character, but her fears, dissatisfactions and vulnerabilities have an uncomfortable ring of truth.