October 28, 2009
Seba Al-Herz’s gripping novel, The Others, is a multi-layered story about a young Shi’a woman growing up in the Sunni province of Saudi Arabia. The title applies to nearly every aspect of the unnamed narrator’s life, from her gender, to her epilepsy, to her same-sex relationships with other women.
The Others captures a year in the narrator’s life and opens with her most recent separation from her lover Dai who “knew how to turn things on their heads, how to fabricate a long chain of reactions to the single and sickly action that I was.” The relationship, which much of the book records, is tremulous, passionate and filled with fear and desire. “Did I say, The act of love is exhausting? Then what about the act of desire!”
Al-Herz writes about desire in beautiful prose that ranges from the poetic and surreal to startling moments of clarity: “We awoke. When I say we awoke I mean it literally. We woke up from the bewitching trance of words, from the honey sweetness of dreams, to an electric shock that flew from her bare forearm to mine … Staring through the window at some distant point, she whispered, I want to kiss you. I did not say a word.”
. . . Seba Al-Herz is actually the pseudonym of a twenty-six-year-old Saudi woman from al-Qatif in Saudi Arabia. The Others, her first novel, is a powerful, important and engaging work. Though the end is underdeveloped and difficult to interpret, the story brings the reader into a world and mind with beautiful specificity and insight.
It is an eye-opening reading experience. Highly recommended.