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Sonora

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  463 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Ahlam, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and his Israeli wife, grows up in the arid lands of desert suburbia outside of Phoenix. In a stark landscape where coyotes prowl and mysterious lights occasionally pass through the nighttime sky, Ahlam's imagination reigns. She battles chronic fever dreams and isolation. When she meets her tempestuous counterpart Laura, the two ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by Soho Press
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've meant to read this for so long and finally did thanks to the publisher, Soho Press, via Netgalley. Assadi was recently honored by the National Book Foundation as one of their "5 Under 35" authors of acclaim.

The settings (Sonora Desert and later New York City) are vivid and the two female friends growing into women are connected to the landscapes in a number of ways. Either one of them or the place might be cursed, because other teens start dying in their community. Ahlam, the daughter of an
...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I have been waffling s bit on how to rate this one since I finished it earlier today. This is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a girl’s struggle with her best friend’s drug abuse/addiction and general wildness. Unfortunately, the book seemed unfocused and there were some incongruous parts that drew away from the main narrative.
Samantha
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Sonora is a bewitching debut novel, spilling over with beautiful writing and great sentiment. This novel is spellbinding, atmospheric, and mystical. From the start, Hannah Lillith Assadi pulled me into the world of Sonora and never let me go.

Ahlam narrates the story of her youth in this fabulous bildungsroman. Ahlam's father is a Palestinian refugee, and her mother is Israeli. They live in the desert in Arizona. Ever since she was a child, Ahlam has experienced visions, that are more than halluc
...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Around this time every year, the book reviewers all nail on their goddamn horseshoes and dash off, in a mad race to submit their Best Books of the Year lists before December 31st rolls over to January 1st. Apparently in this model book reviewers are centaurs. Fuck it, we’re live. It goes without saying that sometimes books get lost in this shuffle, and I’m here to tell you that Sonora is one of them. It is, any way I look at it, quite the creation, and it’s a book that’s been rattling around in ...more
Rob Holden
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Surreal, heady and intoxicating in the most sublime of ways, Hannah Asadi’s SONORA is a coming-of-age tale of an entirely different form. A road novel without the road; a journey of discovery that exposes the powerful and paradoxical nature of home – that its inescapability can be both haunting and beautiful. A story of an enigmatic female friendship shot through with complexity, seduction, toxicity, and ultimately death. From the hypnagogic, ethereal aura of the Arizona desert to the overstimul ...more
Kathleen Gray
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this coming of age novel irritating in ways I can't quite describe. There's a lot of language and description but it didn't add up for me. Frankly I think there was a better story to be told than the "fever dream" this turned into. THanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. I'm sure others will like this but it wasn't for me.
Jesse Glendon Tillers
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This hypnotic novel is told to you like a secret, feverish and strange and achingly beautiful. The stunning mystery of what it means to be a living thing in this land is explored in dreamscapes, drugscapes, landscapes and cityscapes. There is a haunted bravery to its dark gaze, that is matched only by the wondrous music of its love. It feels like an author truly wondering, truly grieving, truly celebrating this life, in front of us, for us, with us.
Bree Hill
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The writing in this was very poetic. I couldn’t keep my highlighter down for very long. Girlhood and coming of age is crazy as is but throw in a very eerie landscape that you live amongst and a stunning best friend who also scares the crap out of you yet your loyalty lies with her and it increases the amount of crazy that girlhood already is. I couldn’t put this book down once I got into it. I loved Ahlam. I really loved her relationship with her Dad and for a change having a main character whos ...more
Anna
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
When two soul sisters find each other in the desert, they build a love under the cactus stars, feeling every prick of life and light. This is one of those friendships that burns so brightly, taking people out with its fire and flame until it completely burns out. There's love and hate and jealousy, sex and drugs and running away from it all, a never-ending party, unanswered questions, and a sense of watching oneself fall from the very idea you had of yourself. With breathtaking prose, Assadi fol ...more
Laura
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bechdel-test
I just finished my ARC copy and will be swimming in the imagery and story for a good while. Assadi's debut was delivered like a pro. It wasn't just beautiful writing, it had a story and it felt like I was living alongside the narrator.

Memories of being a child in the desert and spending time with her deeply superstitious father. Memories of being in high school with her best friend, another outsider. Recent memories of NYC and the rabbit hole of life there, still with her best friend and what t
...more
Tate
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book compelling enough to read it all the way through to the end, so I can't dismiss it off-hand. Obviously, there was something there that drew me in and held me. But, for me, the problem was that, ultimately, this book was about Ahlam making terrible life choices, the end. I didn't feel like anything was learned from any of it, either. Pretty words don't make up for the lack of a point, IMHO. I mean, maybe the theme was: don't fall for people who are screwed up? I don't know. I ag ...more
Colton
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, indie, reviewed
I'm a bit conflicted on this book. On the one hand, it's written quite well for a debut and has an interesting premise and setting. However, I don't feel the full potential was realized. The beginning starts off in the interesting setting of the Arizona desert with a Middle Eastern family, and there was so much room to explore the culture clash, but it was mostly surface-level reminiscing on how the main character Ahlam grew up with her friend Laura.

Almost half of the book takes place in New Yo
...more
jenni
Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
there is something so damning, ghostly, and sublime about the sonoran desert, and assadi attemps to envelope this surreality of a landscape in tandem with the dreamlike self-destruction of adolescence in a short novel that truthfully speaks more to the strange divinity of this geography than it does to her identity as half-palestinian, half israeli, all arizonan composition. the love of oblivion between our main character ahlam and the unrestrained laura repeats itself in a violent unfolding of ...more
Anna
I'm unsure of my feelings about this book. It has this mysterious, blustery, gauzy atmosphere, which is gorgeous! But I finished it wishing something - some insight? - had crystallized. Like I never really saw through the billowing curtain. I wanted a strong, clear moment. Maybe there was one and I just didn't get it.
Rachel
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-fiction
It's not entirely accurate to call this a "Jewish novel," but it's my review and my prerogative! :P Surely there is a lot more Jewish content here than in something like "All Grown Up" anyway. Ashlam isn't exactly heavily identified, but she knows enough to incorporate Kol Nidre and the Shema and etc. Her father is a Palestinian refugee but her mother's people were Holocaust survivors. There's a sense of loss and displacement that permeates this entire book, and surely digs into a lot of my own ...more
erica
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nikki (Saturday Nite Reader)
I didn't get it. I am not sure what I was supposed to think, and just didn't jive with it.

The writing frustrated me more than interest me. It rambled like someone on drugs (not saying the author was on drugs, just that's how the characters are presented) with extreme highs and extreme lows; and it was all over the place. I also disliked how each paragraph would switch from past to present mid chapter.

David
My review will appear in New York Journal of Books soon after I finish writing it.
Priya
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
unsettling, creepy, and sad book filled with dreams, drugs, the desert, ghosts, growing up, friendship, and death. similar themes to Emezi's freshwater actually. beautiful and brilliant all the way through.
Yardenne
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Haunting, enchanting, impossible to shake off.
judy-b. judy-b.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My local bookstore offered 15% off on April 15th, so I wandered around looking for something I needed to read. I was drawn to the title and the cover, and I liked the first two lines:

"I have always missed watching the sun fall down into the desert. It is always so slow."

I was intrigued by the next lines, which reveal that the narrator is in a hospital in the desert. The details of why and with whom emerge slowly, in sections that alternate with her memories of growing up there and the circumsta
...more
Marisa
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Beautiful writing, contrived characters.
Dani Kass
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dont-own
The writing in this novel was beautiful, but it fell completely short on plot and character development. I expected more magical realism and more about growing up with an Israeli mother and Palestinian father than the book actually has, which was disappointing.
Julie
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sonora is a work of art. The mythic, beautiful and mysterious, hovers always above Assadi’s unflinchingly realistic story of young desert-born outsiders drawn to the great cultural magnet of New York. She is tone perfect in her rendering of the art, the drugs, the grief, the love, the transgression they find there. Her art, her accomplishment, is to make the painfully, disappointingly real chime with her characters’ yearning for the sublime-- yearning that sees a Sign in a UFO, a Pied Piper and ...more
Paige Mcgreevy
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sonora is a vivid exploration of family, friendship, the search for home, and of oneself. Hannah Lillith Assadi writes prose that leaves you weeping at one moment, angered in the next, and smiling through the self-reflection enabled by her words. Sonora is a must read for anyone who has undergone the journey of trying to find oneself in surroundings that while once familiar no longer are.
Drew
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mcl
The descriptions of Arizona and NYC were beautiful. I really felt like I was there. The portrayal of the friendship of two high school outcasts and their friendship felt very true to me - these young women really did share a bond until death parted them and even then, the survivor would always carry a part of her friend with her.
Melissa Matthewson
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful prose. Love the various threads and the structure of the book.
Ilana
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review to come in Brooklyn Magazine.
meredith ann
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I got some Francesca Lia Block vibes from this book.
Sasha
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: devil, fantasy, fate, poor-liza
I was very excited to read this because I used to work at House of Stiglitz with Hannah, and I'm so proud and pleased that this has come out (and in paperback, which I can afford!). I am not going to review this in detail for that reason, though it gave me many a thought, and also because my reading experience was altered due to knowing Hannah and facts of her life etc.

However, I will say generally, I have read a lot of books of the subgenre "manic pixie dream best friend," wherein a young lady
...more
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Bustle's American...: 'Sonora': What Are Your Thoughts So Far? 7 100 May 02, 2017 09:39AM  
Bustle's American...: FRIDAY! Join Us In New York City 1 23 Apr 27, 2017 11:45AM  
Bustle's American...: April Book? 6 163 Apr 18, 2017 08:42AM  
Hannah Lillith Assadi received her MFA in fiction from the Columbia University School of the Arts. She also attended Columbia University for her bachelor's where she received the Philolexian Prize for her poetry and fiction and graduated summa cum laude. She was raised in Arizona and now lives in Brooklyn. Sonora is her first novel.
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“We would survive even ourselves, as long as we were together.” 6 likes
“I looked at Laura . . . and wondered at how many lives before this life we might have known together.” 4 likes
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