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I, The Divine: A Novel in First Chapters

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  654 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
Raised in a hybrid family shaped by divorce and remarriage, and by Beirut in wartime, Sarah finds a fragile peace in self-imposed exile in the United States. Her extraordinary dignity is supported by a best friend, a grown-up son, occasional sensual pleasures, and her determination to tell her own story.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1985)
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Mar 27, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autographed, lebanese
There are colors all through this book, starting perhaps with the red of the protagonist’s hair, a red she inherited from her American mother. Sometimes, in writing, color is just a prop, like cigarette smoke or a sunset; but sometimes it can be definitional, like this:

I was in New York last week and saw two retrospectives, Pierre Bonnar’s and Rothko’s. Besides noting that Bonnard could not draw if his life depended on it and that Rothko did not even try, I was stunned by a major realization. Wh
Odai Alsaeed
هنا لبنان المهجر ...وهذه أفعال الفربة التي نكست بمهاجريها قسرا ....رواية مليئة بتفاصيل موجعة رغم سلاسة سردها ... الأتراح فيها تفوق الأفراح والوجع يطن أنينه في قلب قارئ الرواية قبل أن تدمع عيناه.
في أواخر سبيعنيات القرن السابق وبداية ثمانينياته فعلت الحرب أهوالها بلبنان حزين ممزق أثره واضح في رواية ربيع علم الدين ...راقت لي وأحببتها
Jul 25, 2014 Christy rated it it was amazing
I may have a new favorite author. Spoiler alert: I'm not giving any plot spoilers, but if you'd rather discover how the writing style makes this book so unique... I might spoil that.

It really is written in first chapters, and once you get into it, doesn't that make a lot of sense? There are so many points in our lives that could be the first chapter, and each deserving of its own tone, style, point of view. Sarah is clearly the subject of the story, but by writing this way her story can also be
Jun 01, 2014 Gerhard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2014
This is a novel that, to all intents and purposes, should not work at all. The gimmick of an entire novel composed of false stops and starts of a Lebanese-American woman’s memoir – hence the ‘A Novel in First Chapters’ of the sub-title – should just be that, a gimmick.

For how else how can you possibly engage the reader emotionally if you are constantly highlighting its form? Surely, then, character and feeling are subjugated to the artifice inherent in the novel’s form.

And yet it works, magnific
This book is such genius: every single chapter is written as though it's a first chapter ... and it is such a wonderful, engrossing read! It felt like meeting a new friend and getting to know her bit by bit; every story (chapter) stands on its own, but when combined as a larger piece (an entire book) the whole story comes to light. It flips back and forth, from characters perspectives, from Lebanon to New York City to San Francisco. Although this is mainly the story of Sarah Nour El-Din, you als ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Jaymee rated it it was amazing
After reading three books of his, I think I may have a new favourite author. This book is quite simple; first chapters, because what we remember in life is never comtinuous; mostly the peaks and valleys. And we keep stopping in the middle, only to start again; sometimes even a completely different story. This is about the meaning of starting over--which is just carrying our past with us, for a stronger "beginning."
Mrs. Cyberhobo Kuhn
Dec 10, 2014 Mrs. Cyberhobo Kuhn rated it it was ok
I kept going... but only because I had just read The Unnecessary Woman by Alameddine and rated it an unprecedented 5 stars (for a novel). This was rough. I felt like I was reading a rough draft, which I guess was the point? But much too disjointed to ever engage in. Disappointed.
ريما الشيخ
أشعر بالحيرة فيما سأكتب ... هي سارة وسارة هي ... ولا شيء مهم هنا ... لم أجد شيئا لبنانيا" ... ليس مجتمعي الموجود هنا بل حي امريكي يحاول التشبه بلبنان لكن دون جدوى ...فالعائلة غريبة ... علاقات محرمة ... سحاقيات ... وووو ....ثقافة وجهل ... ثياب من شانيل ومقهى ستاربكس وموسيقى غريبة ... كل ما ذكر ليس مألوفا بل وغريبا بالنسبة لي ... حتى الحديث عن الدروز والناطقة جاء خجولا ولا يسمن من جوع ... هنا لبنان الذي لا أعرف .. والعائلة التي لا افهم .. والاسلوب الذي يحير ... قرأت وعدت بحيرة ... انه كتاب يحاول ا ...more
Sarah Makarem
Sep 12, 2015 Sarah Makarem rated it it was amazing
Alameddine's eye for details succeeds again in light-heartingly portraying a figment of Lebanese society, that of the Druze.
Do not expect to quench your thirst for a heart warming linear narrative, or for a cathartic dramatic piece through this work. Reading this novel requires a little more effort on your behalf by an unguided weaving and reweaving webs of narrations.
Alameddine celebrates womanhood, family and identity conflict in a masterful design of first chapters with no endings; a cyclic r
Heather Fox
Nov 08, 2011 Heather Fox rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book, and then it sort of lost steam for me.I loved the idea of first chapters. It is such a unique concept, but it makes so much sense- when you are writing a story about ones life, there are so many places the story can begin. I loved that- but the last chapters did meet up with my expectations due to the intrigue I had at the beginning. I especially disliked the last chapter- it really did not "end" things for me and that chapter seemed so out of sync fo ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Alexianne rated it really liked it
Very curiously written in first chapters with the occasional chapter written in French. It tells a story of Sarah and how she runs away from her own life and being. Along the very enjoyable curious brief anecdotes, she tries to come to terms with her life, her big family, her two failed marriages, her being an artist etc... all with Beirut, New York and San Francisco acting as a brilliant background. It touches on the realities of Lebanon in the 70s, the war, the interaction with the Middle East ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Irena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cover je krajnje supast. Sugerira na neki cheap-ass roman, a naslov mu (u kombinaciji) nimalo ne ide u prilog. Nasreću, naslov (i cover) nemaju skoro nikakve veze sa sadržajem romana. Barem je ja nisam uspjela uspostavit, u vezi čega namjeravam ostat u blaženoj ignoranciji.

Kakogod, "Ja, božanstvena" je bolja od Kool Aids (koju sam također rate 3*), ali nije bolja od 3* tako da je nešto između, šta ja znam.

Volim Alameddine, volim kako piše, volim o čemu piše, volim što se stalno vraća na Bejrut,
Rabih Alameddine is on a definite path of becoming my favorite author. After reading An Unnecessary Woman ,one could easily say that Rabih is involved in some artistry. Unlike in his previous book, the protagonist of this novel has red hair. Her name is Sarah. Like Sarah Bernhardt.

I have always been a little odd, which people blamed on my mother, but she was not at fault. My sisters were normal. People could not blame my mother. My half-sisters turned out to be more normal than normal. Except
Alshaatha Sultan
Feb 15, 2015 Alshaatha Sultan rated it it was amazing
بطلة الرواية، سارة نور الدين تحاول كتابة مذكراتها.
نعرف من البداية، وهذه كلمة مفصلية، أنها من دروز لبنان، وأن أمها أميريكية، وأن لديها أختين آمال ولمياء، وأختين غير شقيقتين رنا وماجدة وأخ غير شقيق اسمه رمزي.
هي تحاول كتابة مذكراتها، ولذا لا تترك الفصل الأول أبداً - ككاتب مغمور غير سعيد وغير مكتف أبداً ببداية قصته ويرغب دوماً كتابة بداية أكثر كمالاً وأكثر جمالاً. عبر هذه البدايات المستمرة والفصول الأولى طوال الراوية، نتعرف على حياة سارة علم الدين من شذرات مختلفة من طفولتها ومراهقتها وشبابها وعلاقته
Jan 20, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
Interesting technique (it's a novel entirely made up of first chapters begun and discarded) and one that rewards close reading. The book is about a Lebanese Druze girl growing up and her identity crisis when she moves to America. Mostly I liked this book technically, but it seems like a popular plot/theme for books these days, so if you like those sorts of books this is an interesting formalistic style for it.
May 08, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unique, well-executed format

Sarah Nour al Din attempts to write her memoir at various points in her life so far. If a writer learns that each chapter should contain a mini-plot but each not stronger than that in the first chapter, then, how would Sarah decide which mini-plot of her life bears the most significance? So, the reader is presented with a novel of first chapters, written in different voices, time periods and formats. It works! Rabih Alameddine writes with an accurate female voice and
Aug 13, 2014 Creative rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
روايه مثيره للقراءة وغريبه..طريقه كتابتها لم نعتد عليها. ليست بالنمط الكلاسيكي المتعاد. يستخدم فيها اسلوب اقرب للواقع لسيدة تريد كتابة مذكراتها ولكنها مترددة. فتبتدأ من جديد بطريقة جديدة كل فصل وأخر..

الرواية مترجمة للعربيه والترجمة رائعة وسلسه ومن اسباب أعجابي الشديد بها.
Syazwina Saw
Feb 10, 2014 Syazwina Saw rated it really liked it
This is the first book in a long while to have captured me from its first pages. Sarah Nour el-Din is writing a memoir, and what we are reading is the sum of her efforts, her false starts, her childhood memories recollected carefully and with anecdotal charm.

You begin curious about this lively young girl she describes, the handsome and charismatic lover she meets early in life, and the way she falters halfway through, as though unable to continue. As we read more of her first chapters, we see he
Oct 31, 2010 Zillah rated it it was amazing
I don't remember reading a book as imaginative as this one in a very long time! Alameddine swept me off my feet again! I'll just say this- READ IT!
Sara Zaiter
Nov 24, 2013 Sara Zaiter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب جميل، لكنه غير متسلسل الاحداث وبعض الافكار غير مكتملة. أظنّ أنّ المذكرات هي مذكرات فتاة موجودة فعلاً وليست من ابتداع ربيع.
Emi Bevacqua
Apr 03, 2012 Emi Bevacqua rated it really liked it
Shelves: mideast
The format of this entire book is a series of first chapters, whether titled, prologue, or written in French. I flew through it in 24 hours. I loved the novelty of it up til halfway through, and loved the main character Sarah Nour el-Din and all her family members too. Sarah's mother is American and her father Lebanese, she grows up in one country and then the other grappling with issues multi-cultural, psychological and otherwise.

There was a graphic rape scene that bothered me entirely because
Feb 25, 2013 Suzierussell rated it really liked it
A good friend thrust this at me and said, "Read this. You'll love it." I did. Written as though Beirut-born Sarah Nour el-Din, who now lives in San Francisco, is having trouble knowing just how to start her memoir. She starts from one point in her life. Chapter One. Then tries another opening. Another Chapter One. Still unsatisfied, she begins again - Chapter One. And so the details of her life are filled in.

It sounds like an unusual approach, a gimmick, but it feels very natural. Each Chapter
وضحى الخالدي
تكتب سارة مذكراتها قافزة بين الماضي البعيد والماضي القريب بعشوائية وكانها قاصده ان تحاكي الواقع في عشوائيته و حكاياته المتداخله التي لانهاية لها .. فتخبرنا عن امها "جانيت " الطالبة الامريكيه التي وقعت في غرام ابيها الطبيب "اللبناني" ، ودفعها حبها له لان تتعلم كيف تكون زوجة "لبنانية" و"درزية"تحديدا .ثم تحكي لنا عن "سنية" زوجة والدها القروية الصغيرة ...تحكي سارة عن كل شيء. عن شوارع بيروت ..والجبل ..والدروز ..وعن امريكا .. وقططها .. وحمامها الدافىء ...ومعرض نيويورك الاخير .

يمكنني القول انه طاب لي
Jun 15, 2014 Karol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beginnings / Endings

Beginnings / Endings

this amazing author engrosses with countless beginnings, eventually, however, we feel the sadness of the countless losses embedded in the subject's narrative: husbands,son, homeland,mothers,father,identity... the many voices and perspectives of the narrative veil, but do not fail to reveal, this current through all. just one example: "you didn't come to my show. oh, I see. you suicided instead.oh."
Dec 11, 2014 Rima rated it did not like it
It was a disappointment! I wish I hadn't come across it after my idolization of his book An Unnecessary Woman. The latter affected me deeply and touched the very core of my identity.

I, the Divine is a poor attempt at writing a novel... It consists of unconnected bits and pieces conveying nothing. I would relate it to the absurd but the Absurd hooked me. The novel didn't have this privilege even.
Mar 22, 2014 Arlo rated it really liked it
The book is written in a series of first chapters, but don't be deceived, it is anything but repetitive. The author, by utilizing this technique, brings you closer into understanding the protagonist Sarah. You learn more about her upbringing and her dysfunctional family. It draws you into understanding and knowing her with each revelation. Sarah is so jaded and anything but perfect that it makes for an interesting read.
May 02, 2015 Blue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-york
A great take on the novel as a structured tool to tell a story. Where to begin? Whose story to tell? A meditative exercise on how stories shape us and how we choose to tell stories, I, the Devine is a captivating novel about the lives of two generations of a family that transcends continents, relationships, and art. With its focus on the intersection of many faiths (Druze, Christian, Muslim/Sunni/Shi'ite, etc.) and many places (Beirut, New York, San Francisco), the novel explores what it is to b ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing
This book has as its subtitle "A Novel in First Chapters." In the book the author reveals a bit more of the main character's self, narrated by the main character, while also filling us in on her family life. The most extraordinary aspect is how in some ways despite all of their differences, the family still needs one another. At the same time, the cruelty with which the family treats outsiders is disturbing, though it is portrayed as treatment of individuals (the treatment of Janet and later Sam ...more
Michelle Travaille
Sep 18, 2012 Michelle Travaille rated it did not like it
I found this a very disconcerting book as it repeated itself constantly. Each chapeter is called Chapter one which I found interesting but that was where the interest ended. The characters were, I found, generaly cold and uninviting and rather two dimensional. The novel is set in Lebanon and America and is a fictional biography of Sarah, a half Lebanese, half American woman, supposedly a free spirit (but all her family thinks she is crazy). Really her character comes off as a bit obsessive and c ...more
Mark Bruce
Oct 06, 2013 Mark Bruce rated it really liked it
Highly entertaining tale of a Woman with half her heart in America and half in Lebanon, feeling the tug of war of two very different cultures. The woman is Druze, and how often do we hear that voice on the world stage? The characters are colorful but not cartoonish. There's always a sinister band playing in the background as Sarah (named after Sarah Bernhardt) stumbles through her failed marriages, he inability to parent, her awkward relations with a demanding father and cold step-mother.

The gim
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great book 1 5 Jan 15, 2010 06:31PM  
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Rabih Alameddine (Arabic: ربيع علم الدين) was born in Amman, Jordan to Lebanese parents, and grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon. He was educated in England and America, and has an engineering degree from UCLA and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. ...more
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“I believe one has to escape oneself to discover oneself.” 73 likes
“I wonder whether there is such a thing as a sense of individuality. Is it all a facade, covering a deep need to belong? Are we simply pack animals desperately trying to pretend we are not?” 27 likes
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