Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-04-25
- Reviewer: Staff
A high school biology course in Mendel's laws sends Jo March on a cross-continent journey that challenges her very identity. Haji's sprawling second novel (after The Writing on My Forehead) is a family saga that expands over several decades to explore the history of Islam, the reach of Christianity, the horrors of the war in Iraq, and several other hot-button issues. Predictably, the author alternates viewpoints to deepen and connect her characters: Jo's newly discovered biological father, Sadiq, is a Pakistani taken as a child from his mother Deena, who moved to America, remarried, had another child, and later briefly reunites with Sadiq. Angela, Jo's mother, also abandoned by a parent, went on a journey of her own almost 20 years ago that led to a brief affair with Sadiq (hence: Jo). As each character's life unfolds, Haji's focus expands to the breaking point, covering Christian missionaries and fundamentalists, the Sunni-Shia conflict, the status of women in Muslim society, the suffering of soldiers, the U.S. military's handling of Iraqi civilians, and enhanced interrogation tactics. Somewhere in all of this is a family story, and the many threads eventually cleave to illustrate how a complicated blend of race, religion, culture, and tradition can create peace rather than conflict. (June)