The plot revolves around Najwa, a young woman living in Khartoum, Sudan with her very wealthy family and very Westernized lifestyle. After a tragic event forces her family into hiding she begins to search for what she believes in. As a young adult attending a university she often felt unfulfilled and empty. Wearing mini skirts and tight blouses she still felt jealous of the girls wearing tobes (a cloth that is fastened around the body) because of their spirit and confidence. Aboulela then switches to a later time in Najwa’s life. Najwa lost all of her money and worked as a maid but her life in comparison to her youth was portrayed in a limelight. Najwa was more spiritual and attended a Mosque. She seemed not only more fulfilled in the book but happier in general.
Najwa’s religion and life are interesting because they counter stereotypes. I loved the fact that Najwa realized that the materialistic aspects of life were not as important as being happy. Society now, has influenced many people to feel the need to change themselves for others and Najwa choice to become spiritual and specifically Islamic was really refreshing. Aboulela really made Najwa relatable. Due to 9/11 Muslims have been put under the bus and prejudged and It was very interesting and nice to see an average Muslim finally put under a good light. Aboulela shows how even if one makes mistakes on the course of life much like Najwa, it is whether one redeems themselves that really shows the true extent of a person and Najwa did just that. Even though turning to Islam stills doesn’t sit well with some people I believe that was not the message was. The moral of the story was that in the face of God and others it isn’t the mistakes that define you but how you react to those mistakes.
This book really can be relatable to all ages, more specifically I believe from ages 14 and up is pretty reasonable. Anyone who is up for a page turner and likes to explore different ideas on life should definitely pick up this book. Personally, I liked it because of the changes I saw in Najwa with her romantic life, morals, and view on life.