Mai Al-Nakib, an author from Kuwait who got her PhD. in English literature from Brown University, knows how to capture an American audience, and her descriptions and her narrative style in this remarkable collection of stories are so attuned to her characters and subjects that readers will actually experience – not just “learn about” – parts of the world which most of us know only second-hand. Set in Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine, and, through the travel of some of these characters, in Japan and Greece, her stories are filled with word pictures so vivid that many readers will come close to feeling the reality of day-to-day life in these places. She opens new worlds, and by the time the collection ends, many readers will be viewing life in these parts of the world with clearer vision and greater empathy. The passage of time, the fragility of life, the effects of change, and the transcience of memory unite this story and connect it to other stories in this collection. The title of the collection, The Hidden Light of Objects, attests to the importance of the story objects within these stories, and while none of us, perhaps, regard our own “souvenirs” or keepsakes as “story objects” in quite the same way as they are used here, it is impossible not to identify with the characters here as they share their intimate thoughts and feelings with us as readers. Separating the ten short stories are series of ten short vignettes, which sometimes connect with each other and within various stories. This extraordinary collection deals with the biggest, most universal themes of literature, told through the eyes of characters with whom readers will identify and, perhaps, gain in understanding.
Category Archive for 'Kuwait'
Set in Kuwait in the time between the two Gulf wars, Small Kingdoms is as close to a perfect novel as I’ve seen in years. Not a word is out of place. Every image works, and many show a startling originality. All the plot lines are successful, without an overwhelming reliance on coincidence to tie them together and resolve them at the end. The characters, even those from Kuwait, with their completely different society and culture, feel natural and comfortable as we read about them, people we can recognize for their common humanity and can respect for their differences from our own way of thinking. The novel is rich with ideas, complete in the depiction of cultural differences and sensitive to ideas which Americans, especially women, may find alien, ideas which are an integral part of Kuwaiti Muslim culture. (On my Favorites List for 2010)