Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mama Hissa's Mice, by Saud Alsanousi {ends 11/26}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The two old ladies spent some time in the courtyard debating who was younger while the three of us looked on, deriving more enjoyment from their scene than that of the patients leaving the psychiatric ward on our TV show. Their feigned squabble turned to kitchen talk, then to tea sit-downs in the Gamal Abdel Nasser Park in Rawda after the evening prayer, then to news of the bomb blast outside the Saudi Arabian Airlines office that had shaken the city yesterday, before finally ending with the war.

Mama Zaynab was talking about Iran with the same sort of compassion that she had for Iraq. After having thrown down the last of the lotus fruit into the basket, I found myself unable to contain my question any longer and I cut her off. “Bibi Zaynab! Who do you support? Iran or Iraq?” Both grandmothers turned to me.

“This is a war we’re talking about here, may God protect us, not a soccer match, you fool!”

I didn’t pay Mama Hissa any mind, and kept my eyes locked with Mama Zaynab’s. She shook her head indecisively, pulling at her lips. She finally settled on the common saying: “In my back and in my stomach, I feel pain. Both hurt just the same.”

This novel showed a personal view of Kuwait before and after the Gulf War. It’s hard to imagine real names and faces with the stories we just saw on the news, but this book added so much depth from real lives.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Mama Hissa's Mice, by Saud Alsanousi {ends 11/26}
Growing up together in the Surra section of central Kuwait, Katkout, Fahd, and Sadiq share neither ethnic origin nor religious denomination—only friendship and a rage against the unconscionable sectarian divide turning their lives into war-zone rubble. To lay bare the ugly truths, they form the protest group Fuada’s Kids. Their righteous transgressions have made them targets of both Sunni and Shi’a extremists. They’ve also elicited the concern of Fahd’s grandmother, Mama Hissa, a story-spinning font of piety, wisdom, superstition, and dire warnings, who cautions them that should they anger God, the sky will surely fall.

Then one day, after an attack on his neighborhood leaves him injured, Katkout regains consciousness. His friends are nowhere to be found. Inundated with memories of his past, Katkout begins a search for them in a world that has become unrecognizable but not forsaken.

Snaking through decades of Kuwaiti history well into a cataclysmic twenty-first century, Mama Hissa’s Mice is a harrowing, emotional, and caustic novel of rebellion. It also speaks to the universal struggle of finding one’s identity and a reason to go on, even after the sky has fallen.

I’m always in for a book with engaging characters. Through Katkout’s memories of the past and the neighborhood where he spent his boyhood, I became invested in seeing what was happening to him and his friends in his descriptions from the present. Alternating between his childhood memories (in the version of a book he’s written for publication) and the present, he continued to foreshadow that he would never recover the joy and peace he knew when he and his friends were too young to care what sects their fathers stood for.

While I had no familiarity with Kuwaiti or Muslim culture, the book described both in an understandable and evocative way. The language was beautiful, and I appreciated both the translated descriptions, and the explanations with some words which remained un-translated. I could feel the narrator’s love for his culture, along with the frustrations and divisions caused by the differences of culture between his closest friends.

This book has been banned in Kuwait since its original publication in 2015. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this translation, and I feel it would be a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about a culture different than their own, and Kuwait in particular. I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley loves reading books, watching movies, eating Better Made White Cheddar Popcorn, drinking Cherry Coke, and staying warm with her kittens under fuzzy blankets. Sometimes she talks about all of the above at SweetlyBSquared.com.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Mama Hissa's Mice!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, November 26th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be contacted the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Mama Hissa's Mice, by Saud Alsanousi


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