Elsewhere, Home by Leila Aboulela is the first book I’ve ever read by a Sudanese author. A collection of short stories that hit home for me.
Also, this year I took up the Reading Women challenge to read more female writers, and this book fell in the category of “Book bought/borrowed in 2019”
Before, I dive into the summary and review, I want to discuss how books end up finding you, rather us, seeking them out.
Last month I went to the Muscat International Book Fair. After spending more than an hour, checking out all the vendors, I came upon this one stall by a Sri Lankan book seller. He had this “easy going”, “no care in the world type” vibe and was funny too.
I asked him whether he’d be present at the last day of the fair, to which he replied “Physically yes, mentally I’ll be somewhere else”.
I laughed. He didn’t join in.
Guess he wasn’t trying to be funny.
Some of my favorite stories were:
- Summer Maze:
The story is about a Mother and Daughter(Lateefa and Nadia, respectively) travelling to Egypt from the UK under the pretense of remembering their culture despite making a home abroad. Lateefa wants to marry off Nadia to her sister’s son, but he has other plans. Meanwhile in the hustle and bustle of Cairo, Nadia suddenly has an urge to learn the language.
- Farida’s Eyes:
Farida is a smart kid and a hardworking student but as she grows up her eyesight weakens to the point of becoming blind and having to feel her way around her house to get by.
As her grades sink down, her favorite teacher orders her to get glasses but her parents refuse saying she is just getting dumb. Finally they acquiesce when her teacher visits their home.
The story is about a brother sister duo called Yassir and Manaal where, Yassir is visiting his sister and mother in Khartoum while his English wife and daughter didn’t come.
They’re travelling to visit anEnglish couple who moved there and teach English. The husband paints and as Yassir’s wife requested him to bring back a souvenir, he thinks to buy a painting from him as per Manaal’s suggestion.
- Something Old, Something New:
A Sudanese girl and British guy want to get married after they’ve been hanging around each other in a café she works at. The catch? He has to travel to Sudan to get her visa and get her family’s approval.
- The Aromatherapist’s Husband:
Elaine is a bit of a hippie/eccentric woman who takes the natural path for everything including health, raising kids, yoga and opening a treatment room in the attic.
Her husband keeps up with her quirks, but one day she gets a psychic reading that someone close to her will stop her from going after her dreams.
She reveals this when she says wants to go to India to act like mother Teresa.
- Pages of Fruit:
The story plays out like a fan letter to one’s favorite author, whom she happens to meet but is disappointed.
Later on, she happens to be a member of a famous organization in UAE and invites the author for a visit.
But she doesn’t reveal they’ve met before, and for once the author pays her attention.
There was a common theme in all the stories; leaving one’s homeland to find a better home in a foreign land.
The stories were set in Khartoum (capital of Sudan) and different places in the UK and Scotland. All the stories intrigued me as they felt too real to be fiction.
We’ve all met and heard the stories of so many families who left their countries and took up the immigrant life along with the hardships, homesickness, culture shock, while doing their best to stay true to their roots.
I fell in love with the descriptions of the river Nile and the food. Also, the conflicting feelings of becoming a foreigner in your own country after spending time abroad was beautifully written.
Interracial marriages was interesting and eye-opening to read about as well.
But more importantly, there is something simple yet profound the way those characters are presented that it feels you’ve known them all your life. Like they’re telling their dreams, fears, ambitions, problems and homesickness to the reader directly.
It turns on your empathy, especially if you’ve lived abroad yourself.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 5.0/5.0
- Favorite quote: “Understanding after not understanding is fog lifting, is pictures swinging into focus, missing pieces slotting into place.”
- Reader level: Almost like a river flowing. It’s a treat to read.
- Should you read:Oh I highly recommend it if you’re into diversifying the authors you read. You won’t be disappointed.
- Would I read it again: Oh absolutely
Till next time,