Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Author: Sayed Kashua
Genre: Contemporary fiction, multicultural fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Grove Press, 2012
Read for: Review
Second Person Singular is the story of two Arab men in Jerusalem and the way their lives are affected by the divisions between the Israelis and Arabs. A wealthy lawyer, seeking to become more educated, picks up a copy of Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata and finds a note addressed to another man - Yonatan - in his wife's handwriting. This spurs a search for the man he believes has sullied his wife's honor, and a shocking secret.
Second Person Singular was a unique and bizarre book. As the lawyer delves into the secrets of the mysterious Yonatan, we discover a more and more absurd backstory involving mistaken identities, newfound passions, and a catatonic young man in his twenties. Sound confusing? It is, at first, but Sayed Kashua draws you into the ever tightening circles of his story with finesse.
Generally, I am a fan of character-driven novels, so if the characters are unlikable, the book is a fail for me. I did not in the least like any of the characters in Second Person Singular, but for some reason, I still loved this book. While none of the characters particularly appealed to me, and they all did despicable things, their complexity and motivations were so fascinating to read that I was enthralled.
I also enjoyed the cultural perspective of this book. I think in the post 9/11 United States, we tend to never look at things from the perspective of of Muslims. It was interesting to see the oppressions that Arabs in Jerusalem endure and the other side of a story that is often told with quite a bias.
I found Second Person Singular to be both educational and enjoyable. This quirky, unique read will appeal to those who love literary books and books about other cultures.
Warnings: Language, some disturbing images, some discussion of sex