Populated by colorful and memorable characters (the lovely Sirine; the handsome Han; Sirine's story-telling uncle, whose fantasic fables are woven into the novel; a poet named Aziz; Nadia and her daughter Mireille) Crescent explores the universal themes of love and loyalty to countries old and new, to those left behind, and to tradition. Some of the characters are learning to live in one country and let go of another, and some are not: a fact that sparks a surprising ending.
©2003 Diana Abu-Jaber; Pulbished by arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company Inc.; © and (P)2003 HighBridge Company
"Abu-Jaber's language is miraculous." (Booklist)
"A beautifully imagined and timely novel...Abu-Jaber's poignant contemplations of exile and her celebration of Sirine's exotic, committed domesticity...help make this novel feel as exquisite as the 'flaming, blooming' mejnoona tree behind Nadia's Cafe." (Publishers Weekly)
There are love stories, then there is this one. All that the book reviews have said about this book is true, and then some. I was mesmerized by the narrator's voice, the author's skill at description, the ability to draw me in. Wonderful command of language.
I usually plunge right in on another audiobook, but after this story, I needed time to think about the characters and their situation for a while before I could begin another book.
This is a fascinating story that could have made a very provocative, engaging read. Unfortunately, the flat-line monotony and nasal tones of the reader's "Sirene" allow none of the poetic flow or emotion of the language to shine through. It is very difficult not to drift off in the middle of her unvaried cadence.
I loved *parts* of this book. Its lyricism, romance, humor. The story-within-a-story. The lively characters.
The food-as-love-and-life theme was pleasant (if a bit cliched: Working in a restaurant is not meditative, gentle work, and some passages border on food porn).
I found other things frustrating as well. For one, the narrator "voices" Sirine in such a blandly pleasant way that she begins to resemble, well, a dumb American. Why would Han fall in love with such a shallow woman? What does she have to recommend herself outside of her cooking skills and the blonde hair and pale skin that the author describes so admiringly? I lost most sympathy with Sirine about three-quarters of the way in. It doesn't help that the character is written with absolutely no insight into her own actions or feelings. And not just Sirine. None of the characters seem to have much sense of why they're acting as they do. It's as if each is possessed by some external, driving spirit. Was that intentional? It's not my cup of tea.
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