Set over the course of 24 hours, Guapa follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, as he tries to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and social upheaval.
Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists and pining for the nights when he can sneak his lover, Taymour, into his room. One night Rasa's grandmother - the woman who raised him - catches them in bed together. The following day Rasa is consumed by the search for his best friend, Maj, a fiery activist and drag queen star of the underground bar Guapa, who has been arrested by the police.
Ashamed to go home and face his grandmother, and reeling from the potential loss of the three most important people in his life, Rasa roams the city's slums and prisons, the lavish weddings of the country's elite, and the bars where outcasts and intellectuals drink to a long-lost revolution. Each new encounter leads him closer to confronting his own identity as he revisits his childhood and probes the secrets that haunt his family.
As Rasa confronts the simultaneous collapse of political hope and his closest personal relationships, he is forced to discover the roots of his alienation and try to reemerge into a society that may never accept him.
©2016 Saleem Haddad (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
This novel made me laugh though the sense of humor is hidden behind layers or words! It made me cry as well. The last moments of raza and his mother together are heartbreaking. Haddad describes wonderfully the birth of feelings and how they might be translated into actions they way I thought only women think of. I loved the narrator's voice and the different accents. The novel is addictive and makes you wish for more.
I love the plot, and the performance is phenomenal - with impeccable character voices - but sometimes the chronology can be hard to follow while just listening. I would have enjoyed the benefit of a physical book to flip back through whenever I got confused.
Guapa is a serious—very serious—novel about a closeted gay man in an unidentified Arab country shortly after the Arab Spring. Rasa lives with his conservative grandmother in an upper class apartment, working in a start-up translating company and assisting an American television news reporter. Rasa was an enthusiastic participant in anti-government protests until they were taken over by Islamic groups and participants were brutalized by the authoritarian government. He has hovered on the edge of protest movements since his four years at an American college, where he wore a tight t-shirt and ragged jeans and hung out with Cecile, an entitled French student, and Layla, another alienated Arab.
But Rasa’s obsession is his male lover, Tamor. They have been having furtive sex for several years, until Rasa’s grandmother peeks through his bedroom keyhole and discovers them in bed together and starts screaming and banging the door. Rasa behaves badly, as his despair grows over both his life and his country. In the last quarter of the novel, too many unlikely coincidences and too much melodrama mar what had been an unusual and intriguing story.
The story was well-written and often thought-provoking, with a sense that the author was deeply moved by his sad but not hopeless characters.
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