Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Review: The Mismatched Braid

Namou’s follow-up to The Feminine Art is an absolute gem. Set in a present day Athens, Greece, the story is about two twenty-something first cousins who are falling in love, but are at the same time trying to find themselves. Namou offers a fresh take on the coming of age/love story, sharing her abundant insight into the cultural complexities of the Chaldean Iraqi community. Her gorgeous prose is heightened by the tense situations she places her characters into.

Our protagonist, Amel, is boxed into an awful predicament. He longs to be reunited with his family in Iraq, but at the same time wants to begin a new life in America. The story opens with his Visa being denied, and Amel must continue to whittle away his days hammering at planks of wood in a foreign land.

Things change when his beautiful cousin, Dunia, arrives in Athens to study for the summer. She is the quintessence of prima donna, but Amel has had such an enormous crush on her since childhood he will do anything to make her happy. Even though they are both cousins, and members of the same Chaldean community, they couldn’t be more different. Dunia is well-read, witty, cunning, ambitious, and a bon vivant while Amel is hardworking and loyal to a fault. He is gullible too and really knows nothing about women. His devotion to his cousin is the real agitprop, both frustrating and exciting Amel, but when Dunia herself begins to fall for Amel the plot really thickens. Namou does a wonderful job blurring the boundaries of emotion so that just as we might question our own feelings we get sweaty-palmed as Namou’s characters put their hearts on the line.

The Mismatched Braid is as much about love as it is a search for identity and purpose. Dunia and Amel both evolve as characters and neither seem to be comfy with the changes that ensue. To Namou’s credit, her characters grapples with their respective identities, and these in turn are further complicated by other mercurial family members.

This is a character-driven story for readers who crave travel, culture, romance, and food. Foodies will love the myriad references to savory dishes both Greek and Iraqi. The sounds and smells of daily life and landscape are seamlessly integrated into the plotline, enriching this modern classic.


To learn more about Weam Namou and her works please visit her website.

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