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.


A helpful guide for books clubs, classrooms, and avid readers.


A list of songs that would have been on one of Sara and Nabil’s mix tapes. Happy listening on Spotify!


This smooth, fast-flowing narrative stands as a testament to the eternal vibrancy and pluck of women in the Arab world.
The Financial Times
Suzi Feay
So fresh and unsettling that it will enchant you from the first page and linger for days after reading. . . . Deftly written. . . . Its epic family sage style echoes that of Hala Alyan’s Salt Houses and The Arsonists’ City, Ayad Akhtar’s Homeland Elegies, and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Zahra Hankir
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.
World Literature Today
Gretchen McCullough
Grapples profoundly with the limits of individual choice and the hold exerted by a person’s homeland. . . . Accomplished and searing.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review
A mesmerising and poignant saga. . . . A spellbinding book, offering a deep and insightful perspective on the complicated lives of each character. This thought provoking and intense drama is poetrically written and really evokes a sense of place. . . . It’s a crafted skill to be able to bring a story to life with such compassion.
Buzz Magazine Wales
Rhianon Holley
Mai Al-Nakib lyrically explores themes of homeland, tradition and agency as she relates the stories of generations of Arab women across Kuwait, the US, Iraq, India and Lebanon.
Ms. Magazine
A sweeping novel that will stick with readers for a long time.
Passionate and skilful. Every detail lands perfecty and leaves the reader altered.
A.L. Kennedy
author of We Are Attempting to Survive Our Time
Mai Al-Nakib dares to question the traditions and rituals of her society. This excellent novel gripped and distrubed me.
Hanan Al-Shaykh
author of Beirut Blues
An exquisite and necessary novel on the nature of freedom.
Ira Mathur
author of Love the Dark Days
A poignant and profound novel. . .Mai Al-Nakib writes with grace and intelligence.
Selma Dabbagh
author of Out of It
Stories-within-stories is a classic Middle Eastern format with roots much deeper than The Arabian Nights. [An Unlasting Home] marries these traditions and implodes them.
Eman Quotah
Refreshing and eye-opening.
Electric Literature
Amy Omar
For lovers of sweeping, multigenerational epics like Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing or Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, this story following three generations of Arab women will strike right at the heart.
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
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
A beautiful exploration of the historical and cultural forces that shaped and continue to shape Sara’s Kuwaiti lineage.
The Arab British Centre
Alia Ragab
Al-Nakib inhabits the lives of women in eras past with extraordinary detail, weaving in significant moments in history.
The New Arab
Hafsa Lodi
The prose is lyrical, like a song sung from many places, pouring from many hearts. It’s beautiful, while also painfully honest.
K.L. Romo