Tuesday, May 14, 2019

North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah

This was a very interesting book about a Somali family living in Oslo, Norway.  Mugdi was a native of Somalia who was working abroad as a diplomat when Somalia essentially imploded.  He and his wife, Gacalo, became legal immigrants in Oslo and live a secular life of relative affluence.

Their daughter is living in Geneva, pregnant with the child of her estranged partner.  But it is their son who caused the most drama - he died committing a terror attack in Somalia.  As his father had disowned him when he became a fundamentalist, his mother feels guilty and offers to take care of his widow and her children from a prior relationship.  So the mother, daughter and son travel to Oslo.

Once in Oslo, the widow, perhaps out of fear, becomes more and more religious - even remarrying an abusive imam who ends up in prison.  But her children, especially her son, instead struggle to assimilate, with the assistance of their step-grandparents.

I enjoyed reading about the immigrant experience in Norway, which I'm sure can be compared to the immigrant experience in Canada.  It was also interesting to see how very different people were painted with the same brush just because of their place of origin (again a common experience for immigrants, I imagine).  I did find some of the parts harder to understand - in particular the references to the Norwegian classic, Giants of the Earth, which deals with the Norwegian immigration experience in the US.

Overall this was an interesting and different book.

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