“In the Language of Miracles” book review

Rajia Hassib's


Rajia Hassib’s “In the Language of Miracles” is a must-read for any literature lover.

Jesten Richardson, Editor-in-Chief

When I hear the word November, my mind automatically turns to everything Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving may only last one day, but it is one of those holiday breaks that people either pray for or dread for a large portion of the year, and it usually evokes strong emotions in people. For this reason, I have decided to review Rajia Hassib’s “In the Language of Miracles”, a book which I feel gets to the heart of Thanksgiving.
“In the Language of Miracles” is a book about relationships and the moments that define us. Set in suburban New Jersey, the novel centers on the Al-Menshawy family, a Muslim, Egyptian-American family whose members want more than anything to get out of the public eye. Ever since the family’s eldest son, a youth named Hosaam, murdered the girl next door and committed suicide, the citizens of the town have terrorized his family members, not letting them forget the horrible event or move on with their lives. Each family member suffers a different plight as a result of Hosaam’s actions: youngest son Khaled is distrusted by adults and mistreated by his peers; daughter Fatima is unable to express herself or show her pride in her heritage; father Samir is unable to entice patients into his medical practice or regain the outstanding social status he possessed before the incident; and mother Nagla is trapped in depression, feeling that her son’s actions were a result of her parenting, and unable to connect with her remaining children. As the novel progresses, and the time counts down until a special memorial service held for the girl Hosaam killed, the Al-Menshawy’s seem to drift further and further apart, unable to agree on what’s best for the family as a whole and dealing with their grief in completely separate ways. It is only when the one year anniversary of the joint murder/suicide finally occurs that the family realizes that they need to unite and take strength from each other.
What initially drew me to this book, aside from the interesting basis, was the focus on family. Most people feel a strong connection to their family, no matter how messy or sometimes unpleasant it may be. We tough it out, because these are the people who know our most intimate secrets, who have seen us grow over time, who have maybe helped us grow. Even if family to you means cats, or friends or someone else that is not biologically connected to you, it is likely that there is someone in your life that has shaped you or made life worthwhile. I really loved how much Hassib focused on these relationships, and the fact that her characters went from estranged to close-knit in the course of the novel, which is one of the main points of Thanksgiving. If you have some time this Thanksgiving break, you should check out this book, which will really put you into the spirit of the holiday.