Review | What Comes with the Dust | Gharbi M. Mustafa


What Comes with the Dust

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Today is Nazo Heydo’s Wedding. The day she will set herself on fire. Wearing her white gown, Nazo walks toward the bathroom. Once inside, she raises the heavy jerry can over her head. The odor of the kerosene fills her shallow breaths. With focused determination, she strikes the matchstick against the box. Before the flames catch her curly hair, she feels something magical—a motion inside her womb. Another life is kicking within her. 

Would the baby have the blue eyes of Azad Saydo her forbidden lover, or the dark black eyes of the ISIS fighter who had raped her? Nazo is dying to know. 

Nazo is an eighteen-year old Yazidi girl from Shingal in Iraqi Kurdistan. On a dusty August day, ISIS men drag her out of her village together with Sarah, her little deaf mute sister, to be traded as sex slaves. 

Nazo must escape slavery to join her lover. She thinks her Azad is trapped by ISIS with thousands of other Yazidi families at the slopes of Mount Shingal. She blows her dreams into the universe like feathers in the whirl wind and struggles with her fate on the roads she took to avoid it.

How do you review a literary masterpiece judiciously? I asked myself this question at less than 20 pages in. At around 40 I was trying not to cry, and at 60 I was angry. Angry with the world for being filled with injustice and violence, and angry at the author for not bringing us this story sooner. And angry with myself because never will the words that I write carry the same importance as the words within this book.

It is a human responsibility to practice empathy and charity towards others. What Comes with the Dust shows us why that is. When violent, fanatic groups like ISIS exist, the collective others of the world need to come together in love and support to dampen their hateful efforts.

While this book is an excellent story in and of itself, it also shows us the personal narratives in all their gruesome detail that we aren’t hearing about on the news. Mustafa deftly weaves realism with various spiritual traditions that puts any long-held conservative views of the Western world to shame. Mustafa portrays the Yazidi people remaining peacefully curious and respectful of other peoples and beliefs even during the violent inquisition and eventual diaspora they faced. Yes, this is a work of fiction. But Mustafa’s lessons are ones for all to aspire to that are directly applicable to our current political and social climate.


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Review | Quiet Neighbors | Catriona McPherson


Quiet Neighbors

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It’s the oldest bookshop in a town full of bookshops; rambling and disordered, full of treasures if you look hard. Jude found one of the treasures when she visited last summer, the high point of a miserable vacation. Now, in the depths of winter, when she has to run away, Lowell’s chaotic bookshop in that backwater of a town is the safe place she runs to.

Jude needs a bolt-hole; Lowell needs an assistant and, when an affordable rental is thrown in too, life begins to look up. The gravedigger’s cottage isn’t perfect for a woman alone but at least she has quiet neighbors.

Quiet, but not silent. The long dead and the books they left behind both have tales to tell and the dusty rooms of the bookshop are not the haven they seem to be. Lowell’s past and Jude’s present are a dangerous cocktail of secrets and lies and someone is coming to light the taper that could destroy everything.

I was pleasantly surprised once I finished my first novel from Catriona McPherson. Not quite the edge-of-my-seat ghost story I expected, I didn’t care that it turned out not to be a traditional ghost story at all but instead a psychological mystery about past secrets in a tiny Scottish village. The layers of deceit are insane! Not only is the narrator unreliable, but every character is openly hiding something and the book plays out this intricate dance where all the characters are squared off, refusing to show each other their cards but ultimately getting caught-out because, in such a small village, there are only so many places to hide.

Quiet Neighbors is a cozy mystery with swearing. Most of the book takes place in Lowell’s used-books shop that is reminiscent of The Burrow in Harry Potter. The rest takes place either in Lowell’s dusty, old house with a view of the seaside, or in the little cottage by the cemetery. Both homes act like time machines, transporting the characters back about two decades once they cross the threshold, which really adds to the mystery of the town’s secrets. This was the perfect book to read just before bed—mysterious but relaxing at the same time. I can’t wait to read more of this author’s books!


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