A Girl Made of Dust

A Girl Made of Dust

2.5 2
by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi
     
 

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A Girl Made of Dust is a sophisticated exploration of one family’s private battle to survive in the midst of civil war.
In her peaceful town outside Beirut, Ruba is slowly awakening to the shifting contours within her household: hardly speaking and refusing to work, her father has inexplicably withdrawn from his family; her once-youthful mother

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Overview

A Girl Made of Dust is a sophisticated exploration of one family’s private battle to survive in the midst of civil war.
In her peaceful town outside Beirut, Ruba is slowly awakening to the shifting contours within her household: hardly speaking and refusing to work, her father has inexplicably withdrawn from his family; her once-youthful mother looks so sad that Ruba imagines her heart must have withered like a fig in the heat; and Ruba’s older brother has begun to secretly meet with older boys who carry guns. When Ruba decides that to salvage her family she must first save her father, she uncovers a long-buried secret that will send her on a journey away from the safety of childhood and into a brutal reality where men kill in the name of faith and race, past wrongs remain unforgiven, and where nothing less than courageous acts of sacrifice and unity can offer survival.
A Girl Made of Dust is a coming-of-age story sparked, but not consumed, by violence and loss. This strikingly assured debut captures both a country and a childhood plagued by a conflict that even at its darkest and most threatening, carries the promise of healing and retribution.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This debut novel, written by a woman who experienced firsthand the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s, weaves the horrors of war with the love and devotion of family. Ruba is seven years old, living in a small Christian village outside of Beirut during the Israeli invasion. Her father is depressed and lethargic; her older brother, Naji, avoids the family, more interested in guns and the local thugs. As the conflict draws closer to the town, causing acts of inhumanity based on religious differences, Ruba learns a secret from her father's past that forces her to face the reality and cruelty around her. Abi-Ezzi walks the delicate tightrope between man's inhumanity and the power and strength family members must draw upon in order to survive. The book is beautifully written, lyrical, with vivid, sensual descriptions that are sophisticated yet completely believable as experienced and retained by a child. ("My bedroom smelt of cotton and books, Mami and Papi's room smelled of ironed sheets.") This disturbing, beautiful book, in turn hopeful and despairing, brings clarity and compassion to an untenable situation. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Abi-Ezzi, whose family emigrated from Lebanon to England, sets her debut novel during her native country's civil war. Eight-year-old Ruba Khouri lives with her family in Ein Douwra, outside of Beirut. Her father has isolated himself inside the family home, and her older brother has also withdrawn, becoming involved with some dubious characters. As the war intensifies, so do the tensions within Ruba's home. Her mother becomes increasingly dismayed by her husband's inability to take any initiative with either his business or his children. In one particularly affecting scene, Ruba discovers a troubling incident in her father's past, and her longing to understand what happened reflects her tendency to internalize others' burdens and make herself responsible for her family's welfare. Abi-Ezzi deftly tells this story through Ruba's eyes, allowing the reader to experience her loss of innocence as she learns of the complexities of the world. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/09.]
—Cristella Bond

Kirkus Reviews
War-ravaged Lebanon, seen through the eyes of a brave, wise child. Debut novelist Abi-Ezzi, who moved to London in 1983, gives readers the outlines of her homeland's major conflicts, but she focuses on the intimate wars inside the narrator's tiny clan. The book concerns eight-year-old Ruba and her family. Maronite Christians, they seek safety for her older brother, already drawn to guns, and for Papi (father), paralyzed by a mysterious trauma. He returned to their village one day from Beirut as a zombie, closed his shop and retreated; now he rarely speaks except to rage at the Palestinians. At Ruba's birthday party, he frightens her girlfriends and barks at Mami (mother). Even his successful, ever-upbeat brother, who drives a Mercedes so beautiful it makes Mami cry, can't rouse him, but circumstances and his daughter do. As Israeli troops mount an offensive, Ruba calls upon Papi's dormant courage and, ultimately, frees him. At the end, "no longer a cactus standing motionless in a pot full of dry cracked earth," he has reclaimed his life, his dignity and his family's respect. In order to enact this emancipation, however, Ruba first must exhume the secrets of Papi's painful past. In lean, lyrical prose, the author juxtaposes scenes of everyday pleasure (eating sugared almonds, hunting snails) with surrealist horrors (playing in a forest, Ruba comes upon a glass eyeball) to depict coming of age in the line of fire. Part folk tale, part reportage, this moving portrait achieves a dark poetry. Agent: Isobel Dixon/Blake Friedmann

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802144874
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
07/01/2010
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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