Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir

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Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A young Jordanian woman sets out on an amazing journey to find the father who left home when she was a toddler. Fadia Faqir gifts us with an entrancing novel that not only crosses continents but also cultures and ideas.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Heron Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782069508

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Najwa has been raised by her mother and grandmother with only stories of how awful her father was. He can't answer for himself as he left the farm when Najwa was three years old. After her mother's death Najwa is encouraged by her grandmother to find him as her grandmother is too frail to protect her and a single woman with neither husband nor male guardian is considered loose and worthless in Amman. And so the journey begins, taking Najwa to Pakistan and the centre of Taliban training, to Afghanistan and eventually to a Europe which deigns itself more civilised but seems more alien.

Jordanian/British author Fadia Faqir's novels explore identity and culture but not in a high-falluting, degree-required way. Her novels are stories that entertain us as they gently lead us to conclusions and views we'd not previously considered.

For instance in Willow Trees we're totally entranced by Najwa's journey as she seeks the father whom she not only loves in absentia but who will legitimise her existence as a single woman back home. While she searches we also see what Najwa doesn't as alternating chapters are in the form of her father's diary, explaining why he left home and the events that followed.

Fadia also demonstrates that there are many routes to the concept we conveniently bundle into 'Muslim fundamentalism'. In this way she opens our minds to concepts and occurrences that today's media skip over. The author isn't an apologist for terrorism by any means; the horror and pain are laid bare but in a way that isn't dwelt on to the detriment of Najwa's flow. Fadia merely expands our minds' spectrum.

Similarly, where culture is concerned; it's easy for we western 'liberated' women to feel that we're in a society that has it sussed, if not totally, then more so than in Muslim countries. However Fadia cleverly and subtly compares some facets of Middle Eastern life for women with those of their European counterparts with eye-opening effectiveness.

This is by no means a women's book though. The ideas and journeys (both geographically and metaphorically) are human rather than gender based. In fact it's as non-partisan in gender as it is in race or beliefs.

As in the case of life, this is a novel packed with surprises and emotion as Najwa seeks answers and Omar seeks a destiny borne of loyalty. If I was going to grumble about anything it would be the fast pace at which we move through the story. However, this is could just be a measure of how much I enjoyed it and wanted to spend longer in Najwa and Omar's company.

Indeed this is a beautifully touching novel that takes us beyond the news bulletins and knee jerk reactions, creating an excellent read while revealing special rewards for the open-minded.

Thank you, Heron Books, for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals, we also recommend Fadia's My Name Is Salma

Buy Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Willow Trees Don't Weep by Fadia Faqir at Amazon.com.


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