Hanan al-Shaykh was seven years old when her mother abandoned her. After this, the young Hanan "tucked her out of sight, in a box in [her] head", and it is years before her mother again enters her thoughts, let alone her life.
Hanan decided that "a voice" gave birth to her, and it is this voice which raised her, too, and put a pen in her hand to describe her situation. This may be what made Shaykh a writer. Now, after years of writing novels, short stories and journalism, in this book she returns to the roots of her life and vocation – the story of her mother.
Shaykh is a self-confessed "rebel at heart" – a trait shared by the woman she tried to forget: when forced to marry her brother-in-law at the age of 13, Shaykh's mother howls, tears off the white wedding dress she is wearing and blackens her face with soot. She soon falls in love with a man she glimpses gazing at her from beside a fountain and runs away with him...
This is a brave, shrewd and feisty memoir about the fight for freedom for the body, the heart, and the power to tell stories.