Penguin £8.99 (349pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 0870 079 8897
The Road from Damascus, By Robin Yassin-Kassab
Friday 05 June 2009
It's the summer of 2001 and failed academic, Sami Traifi, is suffering from a full-scale identity crisis. His PhD is driving him crazy, and a recent trip to Damascus has thrown up disturbing family secrets.
Back home in London, second-generation Sami finds himself infuriated by his wife Muntaha's decision to take up the hijab, and her brother's slavish devotion to hip-hop Islamism. In a fit of self-loathing he embarks on a quest for fulfilment, but instead enjoys a hedonistic bender that ends in a night in the cells on a minor drugs charge.
The calls of secularism and faith compete for air-time in this pulsating - at times over-pulsating - and richly-drawn portrait of polyglot London. As you might suspect, Sami's own Damascene conversion will coincide with 11 September, the moment he sees beyond "hijbas and beards".
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