Hala Kawsarani’s novel takes plus during two time periods, one during the Lebanese civil war, and the other during the postwar era. The narrator is a young girl, Ro’ya, whose mother is a talented painter and calligrapher and has left her husband; she is never allowed to see her daughter again.
Ro’ya is raised by her father and aunt, and experiments with painting and calligraphy as a way of filling her mother’s absence.
In between the two time periods, Ro’ya’s mother is killed.
In the second half of the book, Ro’ya receives a painting
by her late mother in which she discovers the letters of her name hidden behind the colours and calligraphy. She sets out on a journey to both find herself and who killed her mother.
Throughout the novel Kawsarani describes a variety of characters that influence Ro’ya’s trajectory, all showing some aspect of Lebanon’s social and sectarian divisions which have remained the same, during and after the civil war.
Yet Ro’ya and her mother both challenge what is deemed socially acceptable in Lebanese and Arab societies; in terms of motherhood and the exploration of calligraphy, a traditionally male-dominated art.
Approximate number of pages: 240 p.
Foreign rights: contact the author