A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum is a very powerful tale about family and tradition, with a quick dash of mystery. This tale is heart-breaking and infuriating, but it is also uplifting and hopeful.
I was kicking myself for passing this one up in a previous BOTM because I saw so many of my blogging friends absolutely raving about this one. When I had skipped multiple months in a row, BOTM gave me the option to pick from a previous option and this one was one of the books available! I’m so happy that I was able to get a copy.
Let’s dive into my review!
My Thoughts on A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
This tale centers around three women of different generations; a grandmother, a mother, and a teenager. We spend most of the book bouncing between the mother and the teenager’s story lines, but the grandmother gets her fair share of the spotlight in order to tell her perspective as well.
The chapters with varying perspectives were woven together so wonderfully. This was the set up where one story line lead perfectly into the next, but all the while, I couldn’t wait to just cruise through the book to see what was going to happen next from each perspective!
This book also had a wonderful balance. One storyline was more conservative and traditional, while the other was about empowerment and change. This helped to keep the flow going for me as a reader. Especially where one storyline was much more difficult to read than the other simply because of the way one character was treated.
Going into this book, I didn’t know very much about the traditions and customs of Arab cultures. Of course, with any religion, there is the good and the… extreme.
I really enjoyed learning about a number of things that this book presented! But the more extreme items, I have to admit, made my blood boil quite a bit… There were just so many elements of the traditional way of life that I struggled to read about because of how upsetting it was for me to learn about. I’m such an empathetic person that I really struggle seeing people treated poorly. So to see the hopelessness of being stuck in a forced marriage, the domestic abuse, and the terror of everyday life was horribly difficult for me.
One of the worst and most upsetting things was how many of the male characters of the book choose to not only abuse their wives, but that they didn’t take any responsibility for their actions. What’s worse was that the males and some of the females used the excuse of their traditions in that toxic “this is just how it is” way of life to justify the horrible actions.
My Favorite Passages from A Woman Is No Man
In the glassy tint of his gaze, she could see the days of the rest of her life stacked together like pages. If only she could flip through them, so she knew what was to come.
Every time Deya replayed this conversation in her head, she imagines her life was just another story, with plot and rising tension and conflict, all building up to a happy resolution, one she just couldn’t yet see. She did this often. It was much more bearable to pretend her life was fiction than to accept her reality for what it was: limited. In fiction, the possibilities of her life were endless. In fiction, she was in control.
Perhaps that was why she had spent her childhood with a book in front of her face, trying to make sense of her life through stories. Books were her only reliable source of comfort, her only hope. They told the truth in a way the world never seemed to, guided her the way she imagined Isra would’ve had she still been alive.
Back then, in the refugee camp, her body carried her worry like an extra limb.
The books kept Isra company. All it took to soothe her worries was to slip inside their pages. In an instant, her world would cease to exist, and another would rush to life.
Words could do extraordinary things, but sometimes they were not enough.
My Final Thoughts on A Woman Is No Man
This was one of the most powerful books I have ever read. This book made me incredibly angry, it made me want to cry, and it made me smile. I hated some of the characters, felt sorry for the others that were experiencing unfairness, inequality, and abuse, but also rooted for others. But through all of this darkness, the strength and resilience of the women in this tale was just astonishing.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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Thanks for reading!
Have you read this one yet? If so, what did you think?