This is a story about appearances. How far people will go to appear to be sophisticated, decent, upstanding and worthy, and masculine. Plus, what they will hide, recreate in their own minds to conform to this ideal. Other people's opinions are all that matter.
The book begins by describing the home life of a husband and wife and their two well-mannered and educated teenage boys. The second strand focuses on a young Muslim woman who was a lawyer but now work as a counsellor. It becomes apparent that she has suffered some real trauma in her past relating to an arranged marriage, sexual assault and issues of gender (being female in this instance). This is the second book about this woman, which I have not yet read.
The lives of these two cross when the older boy accuses a schoolmate of rape. It was not a violent attack but there was no consent involved. Questions arise as to whether the boy is gay and regrets his part in the alleged assault as being homosexual is not a masculine thing, to his family. Gender stereotypes are dealt with alongside the concept of truth: both can be radically different yet genuine.
These are deep issues and they are expressed well. At times they appeared to touch on the naive, but this could be because I have thought about such things throughout my life. The story is shown through the eyes of the victim, the perpetrator, mother, brother and the counsellor and demonstrates an empathy and sensitivity that gives a perspective to all characters. The court scenes are particularly well written.
Abdullah is an eloquent writer and deals with very topical issues. This is a great read and comes highly recommended.
Published by HQ on 3 September 2020.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.
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