IN THE LANGUAGE OF MIRACLES
The novel is set in the fictional town of Summerset, New Jersey, where an Egyptian-American family has lived for years, enjoying the full potential of the American Dream that lured them to the United States decades earlier. Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy's lives are shattered, however, when their oldest son commits a crime that leaves him as well as the daughter of the Bradstreets, their neighbors and best friends, dead. Set a year after the crime, the novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days prior to a memorial service the Bradstreets are planning to host in order to mark the anniversary of their daughter's death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community that blames the family for the son's crime, Khaled, their surviving son, is forced to reexamine his beliefs, responsibilities, and place in a changing world. Central to his struggles is his grandmother, Ehsan: armed with incense, prayers, talismans, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter's family, Ehsan is either Khaled's only hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.
The New York Times Book Review (reviewed by Monica Ali)
“Assured and beautifully crafted. . . . Hassib is a natural, graceful writer with a keen eye for cultural difference. . . . [She] handles the anatomy of grief with great delicacy. . . . In the Language of Miracles should find a large and eager readership. For the beauty of the writing alone, Hassib deserves it.”
"This is a riveting and important book. It drives home the fact that no matter what religion we practice or country we are from, we are more alike than we think. “Miracles” narrows the gap between us and may make us a bit more tolerant, understanding, and accepting."
“Impressive. . . . From [Hassib’s] first page to her denouement we can be gripped and moved by a study of the fault-lines within an immigrant family.”
“Hassib writes with an authority uncommon in debut writers; in this important book, she weaves the beauty of Arabic culture with the harsh realities of modern American life with exceptional insight and poetic ease.”
“[A] sensitive, finely wrought debut . . . sharply observant of immigrants’ intricate relationships to their adopted homelands, this exciting novel announces the arrival of a psychologically and socially astute new writer.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] stellar debut . . . Thoughfully examining the role of religion and prayer, parents and grandparents, this rich novel offers complex characters, beautiful writing, and astute observations about the similarities and differences between the Egyptian and American outlook on life. It would be difficult to find a better book for any discussion group; highly recommended.”
“[An] admirable debut . . . Hassib does fine work portraying a family divided by culturally and generationally divergent reactions to a harrowing situation, and the novel builds to a gratifying crescendo as the memorial nears and tensions rise.”
“A family reckons with tragedy amid a storm of suspicion in Egyptian author Hassib’s debut novel. . . . [In the Language of Miracles] offers fascinating insight into the lives of American Muslims, and the prejudice with which they contended in the years after 9/11.”
"Hassib has written a stunning debut novel that explores the bonds of family, the throes of grief, and the ability to alter your dreams into something spectacularly different."
“Topical both in its take on race relations and in its depiction of a trouble young man with ready access to firearms. . . . Hassib is a capable writer, especially when dealing with the interpersonal. Her natural use of language resembles that of Khaled Hosseini.”
“Spoken words are all powerful in Rajia Hassib’s masterful book about thought vs. action. Whether the characters are explaining, questioning, or stating their deepest beliefs, though, conversation never creates anything; it’s the human response to the life that subsumes us, whether we’re active or passive. In the face of tragedy, and even great happiness, abstractions fall away; the personal and particular endure. It’s a very moving book.”
Zoë Ferraris, author of Finding Nouf and City of Veils
“Smart, nuanced and culturally dazzling, In the Language of Miracles is a heartrending story of Egyptians and Americans, of two families whose lives are intertwined and then unraveled by fate. Hassib’s writing has an intoxicating quality that made this a page-turner, but by the end, her beautiful story surpasses its characters in its unflinching investigation of tragedy, mental illness, and healing across two cultures in conflict.”
Nadia Hashimi, author of When the Moon is Low and The Pearl That Broke its Shell
“Rajia Hassib's In the Language of Miracles is a tautly told story of one family’s grief and the quiet but daunting burden of survivorship. She has deftly captured their individual struggles as they swim through the deep waters of loss and blame. We turn page after page and hope, as all bereaved do, that there’s a chance for healing.”
Marie Manilla, author of The Patron Saint of Ugly
“Rajia Hassib’s timely novel is a gripping, hold-your-breath exposé about being Muslim in post-9/11 America where the heinous act of one can demonize all. But it’s also a universal, multi-generational, immigrant tale. The old-world, Egyptian grandmother’s bungled English, her prayers and incense, rub against her American-born, tech-savvy grandchildren’s bungled Arabic and Western music. It’s an intelligent, beautifully rendered reminder that no matter our ethnicity or creed, we all long for acceptance and a place to call home.”
Laila Halaby, author of Once in a Promised Land
“Rajia Hassib has a finger on the pulse of two languages and two cultures. She deftly spins an honest tale of a family reeling in the wake of tragedy, all the while exploring the subtle complexities embedded in communication, culture, and human relationships.”