Zeina B. Ghandour
5 1⁄4" x 8" • 107 pages
ISBN 9781566567190 • paperback • $12.95 •
“A Palestinian girl's transgression has strange repercussions (‘little waves of consequence that travel like vibrations’) in Zeina B. Ghandour's "The Honey". Young, impulsive Ruhiya gives the morning call to prayer as her father lies on his deathbed, even though it is forbidden under Islamic law for a woman to do this. Elliptical and lyrical, this is less a novel than a glimpse into the minds of the five narrators: Ruhiya herself; Yehya, her childhood love and a would-be terrorist; his father, Farhan; Maya, a foreign journalist; and Asrar, the little girl who was the only eyewitness to Ruhiya's deed.”
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Ruhiya is an intensely spiritual young girl, the muezzin's daughter in an oasis village in Palestine under Israeli occupation. One night her childhood love, a recently converted fundamentalist, sets off on a suicide mission. Ruhiya breaches one of the deepest taboos of Islam by chanting the call to the dawn prayer herself. At the last moment her song reaches him and instead of detonating the explosives that have been strapped to him, he retreats and runs. The same day a foreign journalist, sent to the village to cover the two stories, is faced with a wall of silence. She seeks answers with the encouragement of a little girl who hears and sees everything, the keeper of all secrets.
The honey is a magic substance healing everything. It runs through the land like its lifeblood. Through the themes of suicide and liberation, the story of a woman, a village, and a people is told.
Zeina B. Ghandour was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1966. She studied law at Kent University in the United Kingdom specializing in Jewish and Islamic law. The Honey is her first novel.
“Islam is often unjustly called sexist, yet aspects of Islamic practice are almost always patriarchal, for instance, the adhan, or call to prayer. Ruhiya's father normally chants the adhan, but he has fallen ill. Worse, her beloved, Yehya, has left their village in Israeli-occupied Palestine for Jerusalem. Breaking a deep taboo, Ruhiya calls the community to prayer, and miraculously, Yehya hears her in Jerusalem and aborts the suicide mission he has planned. Add a journalist, a near-omniscient little girl, and the ubiquitous presence of honey, and you have this short, compelling fable. The rare novel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that acknowledges the complicated experiences and feelings on both sides without making an overt political statement, it is the story of a woman's need to assert herself in nontraditional ways…a little gem.”
"...the story is so tightly packed that every word resonates and multiple readings are required...a glinting little novel that emanates big ideas about politics, pleasure, language, religion and fulfillment, be it earthy or otherwise."
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