An estranged father. An abused and abusive mother. An army of relatives. A tapestry of violence, woven across generations and geographies, from Turkey to Lebanon to Western Sydney. This is the legacy left to Jamal Smith, a young queer Muslim trying to escape a past in which memory and rumour trace ugly shapes in the dark. When every thread in life constricts instead of connects, how do you find a way to breathe? Torn between faith and fear, gossip and gospel, family and friendship, Jamal must find and test the limits of love.
In this extraordinary work, Omar Sakr deftly weaves a multifaceted tale brimming with angels and djinn, racist kangaroos and adoring bats, examining with a poet’s eye the destructive impetus of repressed desire and the complexities that make us human.
I picked up this book at an event at the State Library last year and I honestly wish I’d read it sooner. This was such a heartbreakingly beautiful read. I flew through it in just over two days and was completely immersed for every moment.
Told in parts, across main character Jamal’s life as he grows to try and accept himself and navigate his world. Each section felt distinct with subtle changes in narrative voice to indicate as such. On the whole, I feel I connected more, and so, more enjoyed reading the earlier half of the novel. It didn’t take away from the ending for me in any way, but I did find the earlier sections of the novel more impactful.
With this novel, Sakr treads the line between poetry and prose wonderfully. It is easy to tell that he is a poet – his use of language to evoke emotion in his work feels rather lyrical. Making the emotions that much more tangible to me as I read. While this is a work of fiction, there is something painfully real, and honest in Sakr’s words.
I highly recommend this novel. There is something intoxicating about the use of language in this novel which has stuck with me well after I finished reading. I will most definitely be on the look out for anything else Sakr publishes, as well as having a look for his poetry too.