It’s felt like so long since my last Music Monday! Today’s post is both the first Music Monday of 2017 and the first featuring a book review! Here’s a refresher for what Music Monday entails.
And I’m happy to report, Music Monday is now listed on Bookshelf Fantasies’ Book Blog Meme Directory (under monthly memes)! Of course it’s not a requirement that you post monthly. If you’d like to participate in #MusicMonday, which I highly encourage you to do, you can post every Monday! I only post the last Monday of the month so be sure to comment the link to your posts for that month so I can go check out all the cool things you’ve come up with!
And now back to the book of the day:
My Trip to Adele by RI Alyaseer and AI Alyaseer
Genre: Literary Fiction
An Adele concert held in Verona becomes the focus for an unhappy married couple, a divorced mother, and a devoted lover from three different countries and cultures.
This is the story of three flawed but likeable people. First up is Elias, a Moroccan man living in Rome. He discovers that a black magic spell was cast upon him but starts to doubt whether it was the real cause of the break-up between him and his long-lost love Malika. He decides to search for her in the shadows of Marrakesh after eight years of separation.
Nadia, a single mother from Jordan, is battling her ex-husband in the courts and doing all she can to secure freedom for herself and her only son. Her dream is to take her son to see his idol, Adele, live.
Finally, Yaser, a married man living in Las Vegas, realizes that his marriage is crawling all over him like a slow, painful death, so he starts to rebel against his wife. While faith initially brought them together, it is now causing them to drift apart.
These three characters are on a journey to break free of everything that has haunted them, learning harsh truths about fate, religion, courage, desire and guilt along the way.
I immediately set my sights on this book because of my love for Adele, I’m not ashamed to admit. However, I wasn’t expecting such compelling stories to be buried beneath this simple desire to go to a concert. The book follows three different people, who each find themselves at somewhat of a crossroads in their lives and are trying to figure out how to make sense of what they have. While the struggles they face are individual, there are also overarching themes of religion, life, and family that weigh on each of the characters.
To be honest, at times these “big ideas” came across as quite preachy though in a confusing sort of way. Some themes, like faith and marriage, were both attacked and upheld (to be clear, specific faiths were not attacked – rather the question of whether a God exists was something that one of the characters really struggled with in understanding his own personal faith).
I don’t know if it was intentional that the characters fell on different sides of these arguments but at least it took away from the feeling that the authors were trying to enforce one way of thinking on the reader. The one that really bothered me was that one character seemed to always be pitting men and women against each other, and commenting on how men can’t be helped because of their “inner urges” (this seemed to be more that all men are terrible rather than falling into the ‘boys will be boys’ argument). As well as reducing a whole bunch of issues to these “urges”, it felt like it was only making room for a hetero-normative reading. Luckily the other characters didn’t seem to share these same beliefs (still no LGBTQA+ rep though).
Overall, I think the stories worked beautifully. The characters, despite their human faults, were really enjoyable and in my opinion the strongest part of the book. They each have a personal journey to follow and their lives were developed well enough that readers have no problem following along and yet still have much to learn as they progress through the book. Yes, it doesn’t work out well for all involved (not too spoilery but I don’t know if you can consider any of them reaching a “happy” ending) but it was a smartly-written novel where we got to engage in these big discussions and really think about what it all means. A little more like real life 🙂
What I really enjoyed was learning about the cultures and places through the eyes of these characters. Their stories take us to Morocco and Jordan, and through one individual’s re-connection with his Muslim faith. As I said in my challenges post, I really want to read more diverse reads as I really haven’t been expanding beyond North America. The authors originally wrote this book in Arabic and while it was translated to English, the characters still very much kept their Arabic culture, and some Arabic words were still used to describe the sights and sounds of the various settings. With all the terrible words being spread right now, it was good to have #ownvoices’ representation who could contribute to their own story. If you’re looking for a light read with good representation, I absolutely recommend this book!
In addition to the underlying goal of attending an Adele concert, the authors also tied in Adele’s music by naming each chapter after one of her songs and then incorporating lyrics from that song into the story. While at times this integration was a bit awkward, it was really neat to see how the themes of her music fit the specific chapter! Even better, the table of contents works as a soundtrack to your reading (if you can possibly listen to Adele and read at the same time!)
I thought this was a strong debut for these authors and I’m looking forward to the other projects they produce!
About the Authors: Ahmad Alyaseer and Rana Alyaseer are siblings from Jordan. Ahmad works as a filmmaker. He has directed / produced many projects for a local station in his home nation, including two prank shows, two social experiment shows, one gameshow and two sitcoms. Rana is an architecture teacher at a private university in Jordan. She wrote a book called History in Architecture in Arabic, which became part of the university’s curriculum. Ahmad and Rana have written two novels in Arabic one in 2011 and another in 2015 – but neither was published. They also wrote a film called When Time Becomes a Woman, which Ahmad directed and produced. The film was screened at many festivals throughout the world.
Thank you to Read for Review for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review