Reading the World: Celestial Bodies
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In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.
These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.
“An innovative reimagining of the family saga . . . Celestial Bodies is itself a treasure house: an intricately calibrated chaos of familial orbits and conjunctions, of the gravitational pull of secrets" -- The New York Times Book Review
"Arab women, therefore, face twin obstacles: the West’s own gender biases, and the reductive narrative of the Arab woman. This is why it was such a victory when the International Booker Prize jury chose an Arab novel―one written by a woman―to receive the award for the first time in the prize’s history. The Omani novelist Jokha al-Harthi’s breathtaking, layered, multigenerational novel Celestial Bodies, which was beautifully translated into English, follows the lives of three sisters from a small village at a time of rapid social and economic change in Oman. The tale is replete with history, poetry, and philosophy, but also slavery, broken marriages, passion, and not-so-secret lovers." ―Kim Gattas, The Atlantic
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