Christina's Reviews > Chicago

Chicago by Alaa Al Aswany
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's review
Feb 18, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009, fiction
Read in February, 2009 , read count: 1

This was a different read. It takes place in Chicago, between faculty members and students at The University of Illinois Medical School - a lot of the characters being Egyptian muslims.
We follow a group of these - some rooting for change in Egypt, others only wan to forget and move on with their life in the US.
It took me a while to get into this book - it took me a lot of pages to understand how the author wrote the book, so that we follow different characters in the same circle, living kind of similar lives but very different depending on their faith and the circumstances life has given them - but without much of a red thread to keep it all togehter, except for a resistance against the Egyptian president.
My favourite character was Shaymaa Muhammadi who comes to the US to study and who is in her 30s without being married. She is a devout muslim woman who've always behaved like she should - but in the US she falls in love and starts to question the way she was brought up. Especially after she finds a fellow student she would like to marry...
I also liked the woman whose man slapped her and since she already had realized that she didn't like him very much, she wants an divorce and she's sure her parents will help her - but finds out that divorce is not even something you speak about so she has to try and make it work - 'a wise wife has to patiently put up with the shortcomings of her husband', as her mother says.
And what about the father who's daughter suddenly wants to move out with her boyfriend - whom the father doesn't like - will he accept their relationship or will he resort to his old ways and force her away?
And they all live in a post-9/11 world which makes it even harder to be an Arab immigrant in the US.
The characters are what drives this book - when you get them sorted out and find out who's who, you really want to know what happens to them and with them - and then the different culture and the details about Egyptian society and muslim ways add the extra touch that really makes this worth reading.
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Reading Progress

02/18/2009 page 4
1.17% "Looking forward to starting this one tonight - I haven't read much, if anything, by Egyptian authors."
02/19/2009 page 98
28.65% "A very different voice than I'm used to and different characters. Not quite sure whether I like it or not..."
02/19/2009 page 143
41.81% "Still not quite sure what the bigger picture is - and having a bit of a hard time keeping the characters straight..."
02/20/2009 page 198
57.89% "Starting to get it now - and like it."
02/21/2009 page 287
83.92% "Interesting with the culture differences..."

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