{Bookworm Review} The Locust and the Bird

Image by Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved 2009.

By: Jenn Ortiz, guest blogger

I’ve heard stories about my family. Stories that rival those in the books I read. I have rarely gotten these morsels from the source itself, and this is my fault. I know that secrets and incredible histories lie in my family tree, but I have not dared to climb into that tree and pick the fruit. My grandmother will be turning 100 in October. Her story, and that of my mother, are two that I wish to hear, completely and cohesively.

Hanan Al-Shaykh was tempted by her family tree, specifically by Kamila, her mother, and she dared to pick the fruit. How richly she was rewarded.

Summary:

Al Shaykh gives in and agrees to tell her mother’s story. In The Locust and the Bird, she tells the story through her mother’s eyes from childhood through old-age. She writes the story her mother could not; Kamila was illiterate. Through the entire book, it is Kamila’s voice, not Al-Shaykh’s that you hear, with exception of the prologue & epilogue in which we see why and how she came to write her mother’s story. There, we see how conflicted Al-Shaykh is until she writes this memoir. Kamila’s story begins with her and her brother chasing their father for money in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon.  Kamila is a bright and beautiful girl with an intense hunger to learn and to go to school.  A hunger which is never satisfied, as she remains relatively uneducated throughout her life and always desires more. She is the locust. Unknowingly agreed to marriage at 11 years old, married at 13, a mother by 15, Kamila’s life is no fairytale. Kamila’s hope is her love for Muhammed, a handsome, educated, well-bred young man who loves Kamila as intensely as she loves him.

Kamila was relentless in getting the life she desired. In childhood she learns to trick, steal, and cheat to get what she is denied by her station. As a woman, she utilizes those skills along with her wit to make life bearable. Her affair with Muhammed shames both their families and she is eventually granted a divorce to marry her true love. Despite the fact that Muhammed holds a prestigious position, this is no cinderella story. Kamila’s story is a real one, showing that even the most passionate and devoted love is not perfect. Kamila is suffocated at times, torn, embittered, guilty for having left her two daughters behind, but always in love.

This is a story of divorce, abortion, loveless marriage, desire, loss, love, guilt, joy and freedom.

Impression:

My goodness, how I adored this book. It struck me right to the core.

Every woman has burdens and desires she keeps to herself; these things that we carry with us change our lives and influence our decisions. We so often fail to imagine our mothers as women like us, with love and passions, secrets, desires, and burdens untold. This is the story of our mothers and of ourselves. As a girl, Al-Shaykh felt unwanted and unimportant to her mother as a child. Although she never blamed her mother, this no doubt stayed with her through adulthood. In hearing her mother’s secrets, her story, Al-Shaykh understands the decisions her mother had to make and what it was like to have to leave her daughters. Al-Shaykh reaches that crucial point where she sees her own mother in herself and doesn’t mind. As an author, Al-Shaykh’s strength is in her ability to disappear in telling a story so sensitive and close to her. It is nothing short of compelling.

This is a book that will make you want to sit the women in your family down to hear their story. Read it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Read it, if you love: Portrait in Sepia, House of Spirits, Kabul Beauty School, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Bonesetter’s Daughter
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Jenn Ortiz is a graduate of the University of Florida with degrees in History and Latin American Studies with hopes to pursue a PhD in Child Development. She believes there is beauty in everything around us; from the inside out, outside in. She currently runs {Bits of Beauty} a place you just feel good about and guest blogs for Design Tavern and Wishpot.

Comments

  1. Oh, I love this review Jennifer!

    You make the book sound so very exciting and riveting, thank you so much for reviewing and sharing.

    Do you think you could see this being turned into a film?

  2. Absolutely. Especially if they start it out and end with Hanan speaking, as the book does. The book is discrete in sexuality and violence, so it would give the director some freedom. It would be entirely possible for the book to translate on film.

  3. Absolutely. Especially if they start it out and end with Hanan speaking, as the book does. The book is discrete in sexuality and violence, so it would give the director some freedom. It would be entirely possible for the book to translate on film.

  4. Oh, I love this review Jennifer!

    You make the book sound so very exciting and riveting, thank you so much for reviewing and sharing.

    Do you think you could see this being turned into a film?

  5. Absolutely. Especially if they start it out and end with Hanan speaking, as the book does. The book is discrete in sexuality and violence, so it would give the director some freedom. It would be entirely possible for the book to translate on film.