I felt disadvantaged while reading or reviewing this book. I started reading it as a Marwa Rakha fan. A fan that had never seen her tv shows, heard her on the radio or read her articles. Yet a fan nevertheless. A fan of the human being, of the persona.
When you start out with that mindset you end up with two possible results, either unrealistically high expectations of the book which render you disappointed (see my take on A Thousand Splendid Suns) or unable to find fault with it, liking it by default.
Reading the book felt like watching a mini-documentary. The images of your life that flash before your eyes when you think your life might be ending. I did not get caught up in the individual stories/articles; rather was more touched by the progression. This woman whom I admire greatly, I read as she transformed into the woman she is today. I read as Marwa Rakha grew, evolved, overcame challenges, fell in and out of love, vented, learned, had her heart broken and herself broke some hearts and egos.
The book is a collection of stories/articles about herself and about the dating scene in Cairo. Think of it as a Cairene’s version of the Sex in the City episodes; up to the inclusion of a Mr. Big (if you’re a fan you’ll love the book). Marwa Rakha bravely (some might argue foolishly) tackled issues such as independence, moving out, relationships, her take on Egyptian men & the Egyptian society, sex, porn and horizontal relationships (I think she invented the term, but it works :)).
My heart went out to her as she talked about her relationship with her parents which at times she symbolized in the most beautiful of ways, I love the little story about her pet butterfly. At other times her cynicism left me smiling and laughing despite the underlying frustration of her disappointment in those men time and time again.
Her english is pristine and highly artistic as she utilizes metaphors, literary references and derivations. Whilst admitting that the Silence of the Lambs story freaked me out a bit, yet I found her musical chairs references, duck theory and rules of being a good girl entertaining.
For 210 pages I enjoyed the ride, the possibly fictional possibly auto-biographical hurt yet recovering woman’s take on love and life in Cairo. Then for 5 pages, she broke my heart. The book might have been light reading… and I’m one who never cares for book endings… yet she got to me. I felt like calling up the woman who has been nothing short of sensationally supportive and offering some support from this end. Only it is implied in these pages that she doesn’t need it, isn’t expecting it, that she is strong enough to persevere and that she will be fine. I seriously hope so.