An upper-class Sudanese woman, and covers, episodically, 20 years of her life. A Khartoum teen, Najwa flees to London with her mother and brother when the coup of 1985 leads to her father’s arrest and execution. With her mother soon dead and her brother in jail on drug charges, Najwa attempts to negotiate work, love and the ways they get twisted around emigré politics—and religion. An affair begun in Khartoum with devout, politically engaged, working-class fellow émigré Anwar is threaded in with a later one with Tamer, the contentiously devout, college-age son of the family for which Najwa works as a nanny when in her 30s. The denouements of the two relationships, though separated by more than 10 years, come one after the other; both lead, painfully, to a deepening of Najwa’s religious faith. Aboulela was raised in Khartoum and now divides her time between Dubai and Aberdeen, Scotland; a novel (The Translator) and short story collection (Colored Lights) were previously published in the U.K. Aside from some stilted dialogue, she draws Najwa’s odyssey of exile, loss and found faith beautifully.

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