I absorbed the book. It’s my first book by Al-Shaykh and I bet it is not going to be the last. Her writing is as honest and truthful as the crystal water of a mountain river. Listening to and making public the story of one’s mother is brave because it requires introspection and forgiveness of all.
The story of Kamila, Hanan’s mother, is both unique and telling of an era and society dominated by religious patriarchs. Forced child marriage, an early pregnancy, abandonment, dependence and poverty marked Kamila’s life, yet it did not bend her free spirit. She was illiterate, yet her wisdom is deeper than the prescriptions of many scholars. She had no social security, yet her wit and survival instinct enabled her to see all her children into adulthood through the turmoil of war and social change of her country.
I am humbled by the story. And similar stories of million of women who remain anonymous, yet without which we would not be standing here and now.
That was a fun reading. Light and thoughtful, loving and self-ironic. An introspective and retrospective view into inter and intra-generational relationships. An ode to youthful playful souls even when the replaced knees and pacemakers demand otherwise.
When I finished the book, I wanted to start reading it again. It delighted my soul. I laughed and I shed a tear, as I traveled in Eleanor’s shoes through her good days and bad days. It’s a good reading for those who believe in empathy and for those who want to give it a try.
The story touches one of the tabu’s in many societies – a mother’s violence against her own children. And the ensuing guilt of the child who tries not to upset her violent mother, even as an adult, even in her own imagination… And all it takes to overcome it – friends, a cat, a good boss and permission to say “enough is enough”.
My favorite line I’ll take with me: “It was such a strange unusual feeling – light, calm, as though I’d swallowed sunshine.”
I recently met my schoolmate whom I have not seen in two decades or so. At some point she dropped me a message, when she realised that we live in the same region.
So, on a Sunday afternoon she, her kid and husband were at our door. We love guests, so we soon settled in a nice conversation around some home baked warm goodies. Our kids swiftly immersed themselves into play. It was all lively and lovely.
After we had our coffee, my schoolmate suddenly remembered how much she and her friend laughed at my acting in primary school. I always somehow landed lead roles in school plays.
Her voice was remorseful. She remembered this for decades and seemed to want to say it to me out loud. She remembered some of my roles’ lines from back then. I must have been good.
I was not bothered by her confession. She was 8-9 years old. I loved acting. I was oblivious to their comments. And that was wonderful.
If I would have known and started paying less and less attention to what made me me — my talents, beliefs — and would have started conforming to what others may or may not think, it would have harmed my free expression and my potential.
As adults we tend to listen to and spend time on ruminating over others’s opinions until it spirals into infinite. Thanks to extensive research we can learn to deal with it. If you want to learn more, read “How to Stop Worrying About What Other People Think of You” by Michael Gervais, Harvard Business Review, 2 May 2019.