Yasmina Khadra’s novel The Attack set off a firestorm of debate at book club. The novel follows the journey of Muslim surgeon Amin Jaafari, a naturalized citizen of Tel Aviv. He shares his life with the love of his life, Sihem. It isn’t giving anything away to say that Amin’s wife turns out to be a suicide bomber, detonating herself in the middle of a restaurant filled with school children. The novel then follows Amin’s journey from denial and disbelief to acceptance, if not of his wife’s actions then at least of the motivation behind the attack.
I didn’t like the book. The problem for me is that the character of Sihem is never humanzied. She is “the creature I loved most in the world.” Anything we learn about her, we learn through the eyes of the extremeists with whom she had aligned herself behind her husband’s back. He doesn’t understand and neither did I. Mostly I felt as though I was getting a lecture about the very messy and complicated and, clearly, emotional landscape of the Middle East.
Still, the book led to a great, and often heated, discussion- if that’s your thing.