the road from Damascus
published by Penguin June 2008
It is summer 2001 and Sami Traifi has escaped his fraying marriage and minimal job prospects to Damascus. In search of his roots and himself, he insteads find a forgotten uncle in a gloomy back room, and an ugly secret about his beloved father…
Returning to London, Sami finds even more to test him as his young wife Muntaha takes up wearing the hijab. Sami embarks on a wilfully ragged journey in the opposite direction – away from religion and those he loves – but towards what?
So Sami’s emotional and spiritual unravelling begins. Told in a refreshing unique voice, Yassin-Kassab’s first novel explores themes such as love, faith and hope and the fundamental need to believe in something bigger than ourselves, whatever that might be.
Sami’s path of self destruction is not an enjoyable read (in the usual sense) and he is neither lovable nor right in decisions he makes. He is a lost soul but there is light at the end of the tunnel for readers who look for a character they can truly appreciate. Muntaha is portrayed as an intelligent young muslim woman, with her own mind, with a strong understanding of her own faith.
In the current climate, where Islam is often misunderstood, even by its own believers, this powerful debut provides an opportunity to put right some of those misconceptions and misrepresentations of the faith.
To read The Asian Writer’s interview with author of the road from Damascus, Robin Yassin-Kassab click here.