The Last Patriarch by Najat El Hachmi (Oct., 2011)

This book was actually published in 2008, when it won a most prestigious Catalan literary prize, but it’s just recently made it to U.S. shores.  And we are lucky readers, those of us who pick up this gem.  A gem that is caked with mud, perhaps.  I say that because there are places in this flowing, easy to read, conversational. even funny book where I felt sullied.  Not in an unwelcome way, and I did not resent it.  But in the way that truths about human nature, and the shock of bitter ironies we create, can make us face the inescapable.  It is often a most unpretty picture.  And yet this is a beautiful book that has us living the lives of characters far removed from the lives that many of us know.  I would recommend this book to the following readers:  anyone who has ever traveled to Spain or North Africa; anyone who has ever emigrated or even lived far from home; anyone who has ever grown up and known the optimism, fears, and dangers that accompany budding sexuality; anyone who has ever known, in their own lives or those close to them or strangers whose lives stir curiosity, the pull and push and pull and push of abuse at the hands of family; and anyone who has looked their religion and traditions in the eye and observed their many contradictory meanings.  So, hmmm . . . we have a book here, an adventure, that details an experience so removed — and yet, so very very close.

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About Cheryl McNeil
I am the User Services Librarian at the Orangeburg Library in Orangeburg, NY

2 Responses to The Last Patriarch by Najat El Hachmi (Oct., 2011)

  1. john851 says:

    What a brilliant review–so beautifully crafted. I will definitely look for this book on the library shelf.

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