From the Publisher
"Wonderfully imaginative…poignant, hilarious…The branches of this family tree support four generations of achievement, assimilation, disappointment, and dysfunction…Their stories form an affectionate, amusing, intensely human portrait of one family."
"The Abdullahs are anything but a Norman Rockwell painting, but in their own way, they are a very typical American family. They may have their differences but they also have their stories. And, as Scheherazade points out, in the end, that's what holds a family (much like a nation) together."
–Christian Science Monitor
"THE NIGHT COUNTER, Alia Yunis' first novel, mixes equal parts of magical realism, social commentary, family drama and lighthearted humor to create a delicious and intriguing indulgence worth savoring."
–Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Yunis, a Chicago-born professor living in Abu Dhabi, weaves a colorful tapestry…rich in character and spirit."
"Little pigs and lost siblings make for decent bedtime story fodder. But the life and times of Fatima Abdullah, the madcap matriarch of Alia Yunis's charming debut, THE NIGHT COUNTER, is even better."
"In this captivating debut, Yunis takes readers on a magic carpet ride….[A] sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but always touching tale of a Middle Eastern family putting down deep roots on U.S. soil."
"Yunis' book club-ready debut uses The Arabian Nights as a departure point for an immigrant-assimilation story....Emotionally rewarding reading that builds to a poignant and thoroughly satisfying climax."
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Yunis' debut is a magical, whimsical read with plenty of humor and heart."
"A vibrant, moving story that blurs the boundaries of dream and reality, past and present, innocence and wisdom."
–Laila Lalami, author of Secret Son
"An enchanting debut that winks and glitters like the bangles that line Scheherazade's arms. THE NIGHT COUNTER is funny, sly, charming, delicious, madcap and a gorgeous celebration of the way stories weave and shape our lives."
–Carolyn Turgeon, author of Godmother
"A gracefully-written multi-generational talewarm, wise, and often funnythat reveals the inevitable illusions that push families apart, and hold them together."
–Will North, author of Water, Stone, Heart and The Long Walk Home
Some people write about death, dying and tragedy as if they were death, dying and tragedy. OthersGod bless themjust don't carry the genes for drama or melodrama; they look at the world with all its flaws and suffering, and something about the situation strikes them funny…This is a plot-heavy book…But The Night Counter is also lighthearted, full of silly plays on words and comedic errors. In this easy-seeming way, the author aims, without being in any way preachy about it, to give us a short history of the Middle East and the Muslim faith in Americato say: Don't be so quick to misunderstand us; we are, in so many of the ways detailed here, the same as you. She succeeds, very gracefully.
The Washington Post
In this captivating debut, Yunis takes readers on a magic carpet ride examining the lives of Fatima Abdullah and her huge dysfunctional family. Imitating Scheherazade, Fatima-in a clever twist-spins her own tales to the legendary storyteller. And she has plenty of material: Fatima is dying, and more interested in her prized possessions-including a house in Lebanon-than in reuniting her splintered offspring and her estranged husband, Ibraham, whose enduring love is proved in a neat twist at the end of the novel. Fatima's family is all over the country, all with issues, including daughter Laila battling breast cancer in Detroit, openly gay actor grandson Amir in Los Angeles and pregnant great-granddaughter Aisha in Minneapolis. Gradually, Fatima learns that her true treasure isn't the house in Lebanon that she's pined after for decades, but her imperfect, loving family. Add in a bumbling neophyte FBI agent seeing al-Qaeda smoke where there is no fire and the result is a sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but always touching tale of a Middle Eastern family putting down deep roots on U.S. soil. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Fatima Abdullah is 85 and expects to depart this life soon. In fact, she thinks it will be after she has her last nightly visit from Scheherazade, the legendary storyteller from The Arabian Nights. Fatima has been telling her stories to her nightly visitor for 992 nights now, so there's just a few more to go. Fatima herself is not at a loss for stories since she immigrated to Detroit from a village in Lebanon when she was 15, married twice and raised ten children, all but one of whom have left Detroit. Her children and grandchildren live all over the place, and the stories bounce from Los Angeles to Houston to Minneapolis to Beirut and back to Detroit again. VERDICT This first novel by a journalist and filmmaker with Middle Eastern roots is a warm, feel-good story of complicated family ties, long-buried secrets, and last-minute surprises. It gives insight into the lives of Lebanese immigrants in America and would be a good selection for book clubs. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/15/09.]Leslie Patterson, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI
Yunis' book club-ready debut uses The Arabian Nights as a departure point for an immigrant-assimilation story. The central character, around whom a cast of dozens revolves like a time piece, is Fatima Abdullah: purple-haired mother, grandmother and Lebanese migrant who settled in Detroit in the 1930s. The book opens, however, with an older Fatima in contemporary West Hollywood; the conservative but flexible matron moved there 992 nights ago to live with her gay grandson Amir. On that first night, she had a visit from none other than Scheherazade herself. The Arab beauty with 1,001 tales demanded stories from Fatima's past, and when asked "What if I don't tell you a story?" she replied, "When our tales are over, so are our lives." Now Fatima is counting down to night No. 1,001, believing it will bring her death at the age of 85. Yunis' gifted handling of character and environment forestalls the question of whether Fatima is insane or gifted with magical thinking as she debates and ruminates with Scheherazade about life, family and America. The only relative willing to tolerate her unintentionally hilarious outbursts is Amir, an aspiring actor struggling against typecasting as a terrorist (his dream role is the lead in an Omar Sharif biopic). He's bitter over his breakup with a sexy soap-opera star-whose driveway, we learn, has been conscripted for spying purposes by the FBI, which has mistaken the Abdullahs' family dramas for national-security concerns. Yunis cleverly weaves a vast social web containing Fatima's ten offspring, beginning each vignette with the matriarch's musings about her kids, which lead Scheherazade to fly around America eavesdropping on the wildly diverse clan. Readersmay occasionally get lost in the rain of names and details, but the characters' grounded humanity and emotional clarity always provide orientation. Emotionally rewarding reading that builds to a poignant and thoroughly satisfying climax. Author events in Los Angeles. Agent: Jennifer Carlson/Dunow, Carlson & Lerner