An Unlasting Home

Mariner Books, April 2022

An Unlasting Home

It’s 2013 and Sara is a philosophy professor at Kuwait University. Her relationship with Kuwait is complicated; it is a country she always thought she would leave, a country she recognizes less and less. Yet for eleven years—since her return from Berkeley following her mother’s unexpected death—a certain inertia has kept her there. When teaching Nietzsche in her Intro to Philosophy course leads to an accusation of blasphemy, which carries with it the threat of execution, Sara realizes she must reconcile her feelings and her place in the world once and for all.

Interspersed with Sara’s narrative are the stories of her grandmothers—beautiful and stubborn Yasmine, who marries the son of the Pasha of Basra and lives to regret it, and Lulwa, born poor in the old town of Kuwait, swept off her feet to an estate in India by the son of a successful merchant family—as well as those of her two mothers—Noura, who dreams of building a life in America and helping to shape its Middle East policies, and Maria, who leaves her own children behind in Pune to raise Sara and her brother, Karim, and, in so doing, transforms many lives.

Ranging from the 1920s to the near present, An Unlasting Home traces Kuwait’s rise from a pearl-diving backwater to its reign as a thriving cosmopolitan state to the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion. At once intimate and sweeping, personal and political, it is an unforgettable family portrait and a spellbinding epic tale.

READING GROUP GUIDE

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PRAISE

Arab homes are indeed unlasting, on grounds shaken by dictatorial, colonial, fundamentalist, or occupying forces. But in An Unlasting Home…the familiar narrative is given a spin so fresh and unsettling that it will enchant you from the first page and linger for days after reading.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Zahra Hankir
The book is an ambitious family epic with a historical sweep, an elegy to grandmothers and mothers who were forced from their original homes by personal or political circumstances in the Middle East to build nests elsewhere…Exploring the problems of those in diaspora, especially an Arab diaspora, is fresh territory—and gives one a sense of just how emotionally difficult it is to juggle more than one cultural identity and language.
World Literature Today
Gretchen McCullough
Al-Nakib investigates the quandary of her characters: when one is born in a country but moves to another, where is one’s home…?
The Markaz Review
Rana Asfour
Al-Nakib renders each family member with care and exacting observation...The result is accomplished and searing.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review
Al-Nakib is such a careful, thoughtful writer that despite its breadth of time and place, An Unlasting Home reads like opening a trunk and carefully unwrapping layers and layers of lives, each gently preserved and presented.
The Gilmore Guide to Books
Catherine Gilmore
Deeply enchanting, at times suspenseful, and always engaging, An Unlasting Home is filled with tales of women’s lives and their intersection with the often volatile and unpredictable currents of nations, war, and political history. Mai Al-Nakib’s storyteller’s voice is fresh and original—her book grabbed me from the outset and kept me entranced to the last page.
Diana Abu-Jaber
author of Fencing with the King
An Unlasting Home is an unforgettable story of people making choices for love, family, freedom, and identity against the tidal forces of history in the Arab region. Shimmering with poetic prose and as pressingly real as the white heat of August in Baghdad, this poignant debut will keep you in its thrall.
Juhea Kim
author of Beasts of a Little Land
A spellbinding family history unfolds as a Kuwaiti woman goes on trial for blasphemy in a world gone mad. Deftly written, structurally brilliant, Mai Al-Nakib’s An Unlasting Home is a lasting novel that splits open time, leaps across continents, and creates the sort of characters we carry forward into our hearts and lives. I absolutely loved this book.
A. Manette Ansay
author of Blue Water