Once in a Promised Land by Laila Halaby is the tragic story of a Jordanian couple in the U.S., struggling with secrets that drive wedges between them. Set in the shadow of 9/11, this novel tells of two people caught in their knot of lies while getting tied up ever tighter in the misconceptions of others.
Once in a Promised Land is not a suspense or thriller, yet the reader will not be able to keep from reading faster, wanting to get up and yell warnings to the book's protagonists. The married couple of Jassim and Salwah become real people, with whom you wish you could be friends. I myself wanted so badly to give them my advice, and when I wasn't reading, I found myself wondering if they were able to undo the mess their lives had become.
Hallaby has a way of crafting sentences that gracefully dip into the spirit of an ancient Arab folktale. For a moment, you get a hint of where Salwah and Jassim are from before the writing style shifts back to contemporary America. It gives the reader a real sense of who these two people are and how they're caught between two worlds. With page-turner events and a strong cast of characters, Once in a Promised Land is a book you can definitely sink into.
Published by Beacon Press.
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