Book Review: ‘Elsewhere, Home’ is an enchanting collection of short stories

“Elsewhere, Home” was published by Telegram in 2018, an imprint of Saqi Books. (Shutterstock)
Updated 26 August 2018
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Book Review: ‘Elsewhere, Home’ is an enchanting collection of short stories

  • Aboulela is an award-winning author whose novels have won and been longlisted for multiple awards
  • Within each of Aboulela’s stories is a place for cultures to melt into one another

CHICAGO: Longlisted for the People’s Book Prize 2018, “Elsewhere, Home” by Leila Aboulela is an enchanting collection of short stories that stretch from the heart of Khartoum and its “bone-colored sky” to the coast of Scotland. In each tale, Aboulela explores the concept of home and the nostalgia associated with leaving home.
The collection begins with “Summer Maze,” a story in which a mother and daughter attempt to find a connection through their constant struggle between modern versus traditional lifestyles as they travel from Heathrow to Cairo for vacation. Aboulela’s stories are based on relatable narratives — she tells of a convert from Edinburgh who travels to Khartoum to marry the woman he loves and, in another story, a woman sitting on a bus in London whose nostalgia takes her back to the waters of the Nile and the brother she lost on his wedding day. The reader is dropped into the middle of her character’s lives — their struggles and hopes have already been established and we only witness fleeting moments in their complex lives.
Aboulela’s stories bring with them the warmth of the Khartoum sun and the shimmering sunlight that reflects off of the White and Blue Nile.
Aboulela’s characters — both men and women, young and old — are resolute, sometimes flawed, but always aware of themselves. Her female characters are strong and ever-conscious of the world they live in. Her characters are deeply imbedded in their multiple identities, in their African identity, Arab identity and Muslim identity, all of which contribute to their outlook.
Within each of Aboulela’s stories is a place for cultures to melt into one another, in which discomfort is dispelled by a new sense of comfort, and in which non-aligning relationships are aligned and a new common ground is established. Each story reminds us that the need to coexist stems from a need for love, home and belonging.
Aboulela is an award-winning author whose novels have won and been longlisted for multiple awards. “Elsewhere, Home” was published by Telegram in 2018, an imprint of Saqi Books.


What We Are Reading Today: Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

Updated 20 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

  • Lake Success flies through a lot of topics: Wealth, status, parenthood, lost relationships, autism, America, etc.
  • I think it’s ultimately a book about time, and how it only moves in one direction, forward, says on a reviewer

Lake Success is the story of a clueless hedge fund multi-millionaire who self-destructs his family and hits the road on a Greyhound bus to see America and try to recover his college days. 

Lake Success flies through a lot of topics: Wealth, status, parenthood, lost relationships, autism, America, etc. 

It tracks the mid-life crisis of Barry Cohen, a “struggling” hedge fund manager with a crumbling marriage and a severely autistic three-year-old son. 

“I think it’s ultimately a book about time, and how it only moves in one direction, forward. Once the main characters accept the forward motion of their lives, they are truly able to live,” a reviewer commented in goodreads.com. 

The author, Gary Shteyngart, is an American writer born in Leningrad. Much of his work is satirical and relies on the invention of elaborately fictitious yet somehow familiar places and times.

Shteyngart’s first three novels — The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002), Absurdistan (2006) and Super Sad True Love Story (2010) — were fundamentally immigrant stories. 

The Russian Debutante’s Handbook received the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award.

Lake Success takes place over the final months of the 2016 campaign, and in the early months of Donald Trump’s presidency.