How does the old cliché go? When every Arab girl stood in line waiting for God to hand out the desperate-to-get-married gene, I must have been somewhere else, probably lost in a book.

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Halabi Bookstore, Beirut

Ah, but where to begin with this book? I picked up a copy of Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman from a local bookstore at Green Apple Books. It was nestled in the annex, along with other well-read and creased spines.

Having just read Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers, I was a little disoriented upon reading Alameddine’s first few pages. Porter’s writing had a different style and his voice stuck with me more than I thought it did.

My introduction to Aaliya was abrupt. Who was this character with the blue hair smack dab in Beirut?

Turns out, I have a lot more in common with this precarious woman, this reader with a voracious appetite who could not be bothered to spend time with the three matriarchs who ruled her apartment complex. While Fadia, Marie-Therese and Joumana spent their mornings, afternoons and evenings drinking ambrosia coffee, filing their nails, talking about their children (and their children’s plans or lack thereof), planning trips to the salon, Aaliya spent her days huddled in her apartment devoted to the written word, a phrase that I also use to describe my dedication to literature.

I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word. Literature is my sandbox. In it I play, build my forts and castles, spend glorious time. It is the world outside that box that gives me trouble. I have adapted tamely, though not conventionally, to this visible world so I can retreat without much inconvenience into my inner world of books.

An Unnecessary Woman (And Her Books) by Rabih Alameddine

Book Reviews, Fiction