Jaspreet's Reviews > Maps

Maps by Nuruddin Farah
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's review
Jun 10, 2008

it was amazing
Read in July, 2008

About a week ago, I finished reading Maps by Nuruddin Farah . As with most things in my life, I fell behind on the process of writing the review. I told myself that it was okay to hold off on writing the review until I had some questions.

Before getting to the questions, I would like to get a (short) general review. The book was surprisingly engaging and powerful. From publisher’s weekly, here is a plot summary: Askar, orphaned as a child, is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a small village by Misra, an older woman who develops a mysterious, protective bond with him. Even when he moves to the capital to live with his prosperous Uncle Hilaal, Askar's origins continue to preoccupy him, and he grows into a serious, introspective youth fixed on the urgent question of his identity. Hilaal, the cook and nurturer in his city home, is able to provide some answers for his baffled nephew on the subjects of African tradition, Somalian manhood and selflessness. Employing a poetic, imaginative style, Farah skillfully juxtaposes Askar's emotional turmoil and the struggles of his beloved Somalia under siege, as the characters try to understand why blood must be shed for territorial gain. In the end, Askar must choose between avenging his soldier father's death by joining the army, or pursuing his academic studies, but the choice is taken out of his hands by powerful external forces.

In a larger sense the book is about the intersection and conflict between family and national identity. The uncle and aunt were my favorite characters and to me they represented the progression from a patriarchal societal model to one that is more equal.

LisaMM asked: For either book: what is the significance of the title?

In this book, I think that Askar uses maps to find his place in the world. As the war continues, the maps change and he realizes that location is fluid.

R asked: Although you haven't reviewed it yet, I'm aware that you really liked Maps. Can you pinpoint what exactly was so gripping or engaging about this book?

I have been thinking about what made me enjoy Maps and the only thing I have come up with is the tone of the book. It is serious and at time ominous. However, you can really see the progression of the main character from a young boy to a young man who is trying to fit together the various pieces of information he is given. I also liked the way questions about good and evil were raised and handled.

R also asked: I hear that the author of Maps has a very unique and powerful writing style. How would you describe it? Does it compare to any other authors you know?

This is a hard question to answer because I seem to have writer’s block in thinking about the author. The only thing I can think of is deceptively simple. The language and words he uses to express an idea are simple on the surface, but the sentiments and insight they provide are incredible. The only other author I can think of is David Malouf who wrote Remembering Babylon which I reviewed here.

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