Book Review: Confessions by Rabee Jaber

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After I finished Modern Lovers, I was awaiting a specific book to arrive in the mail so I was looking for something fairly short to fill the gap. Confessions fulfilled that description at only about 120 pages. I had heard many things about this book from BuzzFeed articles to Book Riot podcast mentions and it has been on my “To Read List” for awhile.

Confessions is about the narrator, Maroun looking back at his childhood. Maroun grew up against the backdrop of the Lebanese civil war which affected everyone in his family. He struggles to try and place his childhood memories which are very jumbled in his mind. He often remembers looking up at a picture of his murdered brother by the same name that hangs on the wall. The truth, which he doesn’t find out for many years is that his family are not really his biological family. His father, filled with rage after his son was kidnapped and killed, goes on a killing spree by setting up checkpoints on the roads. He stops Maroun’s family when he is just a small child and kills everyone in the car. Maroun is shot but miraculously lives. From that point, the man takes him as his own and names him after his dead son.

The writing in this story is a stream of consciousness style that can be difficult to follow, I believe it was also translated. Maroun spends most of the book trying to put his memories in order, trying to remember his family before he was taken. We get a look into his life with his adopted family, his dying mother, his dutiful sisters, and his older brother who kills people along with his father.

The story is a snapshot of a wartorn time and area of the world that is often forgotten or swept aside. Maroun talks of sniper fire and shelling as normal, common events. This story is also an exploration of the mind and how our memories work. Maroun can remember a store clerk feeding him fava beans but he cannot remember his first family. It is a devastating, heart-wrenching read, but an important and timely one.

My problem with this story is mainly that it was hard to follow in the style of writing and because of that, it was hard to drive the plot. A little more understanding of the time of the narration and a better timeline would’ve helped that but it also may have hindered the effect of the disjointed memory on the character’s struggle.

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