Tuesday, November 24, 2009

125 (2009 #50). Small Kingdoms

by Anastasia Hobbet

The author spent five years, 1995 to 2000, the period between the two Gulf Wars, living in a traditional neighborhood in Kuwait, much like Kit, one of the main characters in her novel. She was able to observe her Arab neighbors and their servants from countries such as India, Pakistan, and the Philippines (people who were often the main financial support for their families back home), as well as Americans in the country for business and humanitarian reasons.

Besides Kit, the quiet wife of an American businessman, the other main characters are Mufeeda, her upper-class Kuwaiti across-the-street neighbor, a devout Muslim; and her maid/cook, Emmanuella from India; Theo, an American doctor who works with Mufeeda’s husband at the local hospital; and Hanaan, the unconventional Palestinian woman who teaches Theo Arabic (and loves cats). Emmanuella discovers that the Indian maid of another neighbor is being abused, and ultimately draws all the other main characters into that plotline.

This was an absorbing look into different societies and cultures. Kit and Mufeeda in particular grow and change in the story in a positive way. The characters are well-developed and I was drawn into their lives, and even the minor characters contribute to the story. I found myself wanting to know more about what happened to Theo and Hanaan.

I would recommend Small Kingdoms, slated for release in January 2010, If you have read (even if you didn't like) other fiction and nonfiction set in the contemporary Arab/Muslim world, such as A Thousand Splendid Suns, Tears of the Desert, Kabul Beauty School, The Translator, The Kite Runner, and Three Cups of Tea, I think you will appreciate this book.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful review, Amanda. One of the great pleasures of being a publisher is connecting with book bloggers who write well, and you are certainly one of them. I'd be glad to send on each of our other monthly releases if you'd like them. Email is "shepard@thepermanentpress.com"