Exiled, displaced, tortured, and grieving—each of the five Iraqi women whose lives and losses come to us through Haifa Zangana’s skillfully wrought novel is searching in her own way for peace with a past that continually threatens to swallow up the present.
Majda, the widow of a former Ba’ath party official who was killed by the government he served. Adiba, a political dissident tortured under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Um Mohammed, a Kurdish refugee who fled her home for political asylum. Iqbal, a divorced mother whose family in Iraq is suffering the effects of Western economic sanctions. And Sahira, the wife of a Communist politician, struggling with his disillusionment and her own isolation. Bound to one another by a common Iraqi identity and a common location in 1990s London, these women come together across differences in politics, ethnic and class background, age, and even language. In narrating the friendship that develops among them, Zangana captures their warmth and humor as well as their sadness, their feelings of despair along with their search for hope, their sense of uprootedness, and their yearnings for home.
Weaving between the women’s memories of Iraq—nostalgic and nightmarish—and their lives as exiles in London, Zangana’s novel gives voice to the richness and complexity of Iraqi women’s experiences. Through their stories, the novel represents a powerful critique of the violence done to ordinary people by those who hold power both in Iraq and in the West.
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