Current events have opened the eyes of many Americans to the Muslim world, and fascinating novels featuring Muslim characters are increasingly gaining attention. But few are as effective as Minaret, a stark yet singing tale of how politics and religion play havoc with individual lives.
"I've come down in the world," declares Najwa, a Sudanese woman living in London, and readers soon realize how true this is. Once the educated daughter of a Sudanese official with hopes of marrying well, her fortunes change overnight when her country's government is overthrown. In exile, struggling to provide for herself, Najwa eventually takes a job as a housekeeper for another Muslim family. But as she becomes increasingly attracted to her employer's younger brother, her newfound world threatens to spin out of control.
Aboulela, a Sudanese woman who has lived in Britain, reveals a world where expectations and dreams are instantly diminished, if not extinguished completely. Destinies change with the rise and fall of political rivalries and individual identity holds little meaning. Najwa, her family, and the Muslims she meets in London all seem doomed to frustrated, confined, or at best, mildly contented lives. But perhaps most compelling in this first novel is the sanctuary that Islam provides for immigrants who have been stripped of their ambitions, with little hope for the future. (Holiday 2005 Selection)