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About a week ago, I finished reading Maps by Nuruddin Farah . As with most things in my life, I fell behind on the process of writing the review. In the spirit of participating in Weekly Geeks 12, I told myself that it was okay to hold off on writing the review until I had some questions.

Before getting to the questions, I would like to get a (short) general review. The book was surprisingly engaging and powerful. From publisher’s weekly, here is a plot summary: Askar, orphaned as a child, is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a small village by Misra, an older woman who develops a mysterious, protective bond with him. Even when he moves to the capital to live with his prosperous Uncle Hilaal, Askar's origins continue to preoccupy him, and he grows into a serious, introspective youth fixed on the urgent question of his identity. Hilaal, the cook and nurturer in his city home, is able to provide some answers for his baffled nephew on the subjects of African tradition, Somalian manhood and selflessness. Employing a poetic, imaginative style, Farah skillfully juxtaposes Askar's emotional turmoil and the struggles of his beloved Somalia under siege, as the characters try to understand why blood must be shed for territorial gain. In the end, Askar must choose between avenging his soldier father's death by joining the army, or pursuing his academic studies, but the choice is taken out of his hands by powerful external forces.

In a larger sense the book is about the intersection and conflict between family and national identity. The uncle and aunt were my favorite characters and to me they represented the progression from a patriarchal societal model to one that is more equal.

Care asked: Maps? I haven't heard of this one. Is it for your world challenge? Generic questions: what genre is it? did you like it?

Yes, I read this book for two challenges.

The Neustadt Challenge

Orbis Terrarum


It is historical fiction; although, I am not very good at assigning genres.

LisaMM asked: For either book: what is the significance of the title?

In this book, I think that Askar uses maps to find his place in the world. As the war continues, the maps change and he realizes that location is fluid.

R asked: Although you haven't reviewed it yet, I'm aware that you really liked Maps. Can you pinpoint what exactly was so gripping or engaging about this book?

I have been thinking about what made me enjoy Maps and the only thing I have come up with is the tone of the book. It is serious and at time ominous. However, you can really see the progression of the main character from a young boy to a young man who is trying to fit together the various pieces of information he is given. I also liked the way questions about good and evil were raised and handled.

R also asked: I hear that the author of Maps has a very unique and powerful writing style. How would you describe it? Does it compare to any other authors you know?

This is a hard question to answer because I seem to have writer’s block in thinking about the author. The only thing I can think of is deceptively simple. The language and words he uses to express an idea are simple on the surface, but the sentiments and insight they provide are incredible. The only other author I can think of is David Malouf who wrote Remembering Babylon which I reviewed here.

Almost Vegetarian asked: I am not familiar with this author: Nuruddin Farah. What can you tell me about him (or her), please?

This is from his Wikipedia page, Somali novelist, writing in English and Somali. Farah has ofted dealt the history of his country throught the fates of his characters. The central theme in his work is the women's liberation in postcolonial Somaliland, which he sees as a precondition for political and individual freedom. The majority of his essays, novels, short stories, plays, and film scripts are written in English, but he has also translated children's stories from Arabic, Italian, French, and English into Somali. Farah received in 1998 the Neustadt Award.

I first heard about him through my participation in the Neustadt Reading Challenge. The book Maps is the first of a trilogy. I am looking forward to reading more of him.

Thanks for the questions everyone!

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link in the comments and I will add it to the post.

Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 11:39AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] | Comments2 Comments

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Reader Comments (2)

Great review!
August 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCare
Thank you for the compliment Care!!
August 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbeastmomma

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