I have had a hard time getting my hands on a book from Qatar. I know there are several out there, but sadly I cannot always get them shipped to me, even though they might be for sale online. This is a challenge, but when I get the book it is the reward in itself. Occasionally I check the list of countries I still have not found a book from and I check online stores and my library. This time I was luckily, because I expanded the list of books I looked for, and found The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria.
This is a true story of Sophia’s mother sending her away from her American life in Washington State to Qatar, to stay with her father’s Bedouin family, when Sophia was a teenager. Sophia’s mother wants her to learn about the other side of the family and their culture. This is a coming-of-age story, as well as a story about living between two very different families, struggling between two cultures, literally and figuratively miles apart.
I bet living her new life the author must have asked herself many times if this really happened, and did it really happen to her. At times I felt as confused as the author did, even though I was only reading the book, not living it. When her nomadic Bedouin family changes their active, free, and supportive lifestyle to a cramped, controlled, and boring life in an apartment in Cairo, even I felt trapped.
What I did not like about this book is that so many of my questions were not answered. The author skipped over many important details. For example, her American mother was shocked when her husband took a second wife, his own cousin. Not a big deal in his culture, unthinkable (and illegal) in her culture. However, did she ever get over it? Did they end up getting a divorce or not? In the end, I ended up with having so many unanswered questions, and the ending did not really satisfy me.
What I like about the book is that the author realizes she does not have to choose between these two worlds, instead she can live her own life. It is also interesting to read that she felt like her life was more restricted living in Washington than it was living in the Middle East. It is an interesting read, but it could have been executed a lot better.