The Night Counter: A Starred Review in KirkusJune 16, 2009
The Night Counter received a starred reveiw in Kirkus Reviews this week. It leaves a tired writer so joyful she is wordless. A link to the original can be found at:
http://www.aliayunis.com/press.html (It also inspired Chris Costello, the person who designed this website, and I to update the Events page on the website.)
But if you just want to read the review here:
STARRED Yunis, Alia
THE NIGHT COUNTER
Yunis’ book club–ready debut uses The Arabian Nights as a departure point for an immigrant-assimilation story.
The central character, around whom a cast of dozens revolves like a time piece, is Fatima Abdullah: purple-haired mother, grandmother and Lebanese migrant who settled in Detroit in the 1930s. The book opens, however, with an older Fatima in contemporary West Hollywood; the conservative but flexible matron moved there 992 nights ago to live with her gay grandson Amir. On that first night, she had a visit from none other than Scheherazade herself. The Arab beauty with 1,001 tales demanded stories from Fatima’s past, and when asked “What if I don’t tell you a story?” she replied, “When our tales are over, so are our lives.” Now Fatima is counting down to night No. 1,001, believing it will bring her death at the age of 85. Yunis’ gifted handling of character and environment forestalls the question of whether Fatima is insane or gifted with magical thinking as she debates and ruminates with Scheherazade about life, family and America. The only relative willing to tolerate her unintentionally hilarious outbursts is Amir, an aspiring actor struggling against typecasting as a terrorist (his dream role is the lead in an Omar Sharif biopic). He’s bitter over his breakup with a sexy soap-opera star—whose driveway, we learn, has been conscripted for spying purposes by the FBI, which has mistaken the Abdullahs’ family dramas for national-security concerns. Yunis cleverly weaves a vast social web containing Fatima’s ten offspring, beginning each vignette with the matriarch’s musings about her kids, which lead Scheherazade to fly around America eavesdropping on the wildly diverse clan. Readers may occasionally get lost in the rain of names and details, but the characters’ grounded humanity and emotional clarity always provide orientation.
Emotionally rewarding reading that builds to a poignant and thoroughly satisfying climax.