In the wake of a tragic accident that claims the life of her mother, Donia Bijan finds herself lost in memories of her family’s history—from pleasant memories of growing up on the second floor of her parents’ hospital in Tehran to fearfully fleeing Iran for their lives.
How to Read the Air is about failed relationships and imperfect people, and about the lasting effect of relationships on identities—for better or worse. Unfortunately, between the slow plot and the flat characterization, there was very little to draw me into this story, and even less to keep me hanging on. As a big fan of Mengestu’s first book, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, I was disappointed in this, his sophomore offering.
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a powerful story of loneliness and loss, but also of renewal and self-discovery. The spare, efficient prose is slow-moving at times, but that only showcases a narrative that is simultaneously rich and raw.
Zeitoun is an eye-opening account of the devastating effects of two very different disasters in the United States: As Hurricane Katrina wreaks havoc on neighborhoods and lives in New Orleans, religious intolerance toward Muslims becomes more pointed this post-9/11 world. The Zeitouns’ fascinating story of survival in the face of loss and discrimination makes both catastrophes undeniably real to the reader.