In her peaceful town outside Beirut, Ruba is slowly awakening to the shifting contours within her household: hardly speaking and refusing to work, her father has withdrawn from his family; her once-youthful mother looks so sad that Ruba imagines her heart has withered like a fig in the heat; and Ruba's brother is secretly meeting with older boys, some of whom carry guns.
When Ruba decides that to salvage her family she must first save her father, she uncovers a secret from his past that will propel her into a brutal reality where men kill in the name of faith and race, past wrongs remain unforgiven, and where only courageous acts of self-sacrifice and unity can offer survival. As Israeli troops invade Beirut, Ruba realizes that she alone may not be able to keep her loved ones safe, and it is up to her father to shed the shackles of his past and lead his family to a better future.
A Girl Made of Dust is a coming-of-age story sparked, but not consumed, by violence and loss. Seen through the eyes of an eight year old girl living in Lebanon, this poetic debut captures both a country and a childhood plagued by a conflict that even at its most threatening, carries the promise of healing and retribution.
"This disturbing, beautiful book, in turn hopeful and despairing, brings clarity and compassion to an untenable situation." - Publishers Weekly
"Part folk tale, part reportage, this moving portrait achieves a dark poetry." - Kirkus Reviews
"Starred Review. Abi-Ezzi deftly tells this story through Ruba's eyes, allowing the reader to experience her loss of innocence as she learns of the complexities of the world." - Library Journal
[A] haunting story that raises elemental global issues that are part of headlines today. - Booklist
"Abi-Ezzi's captivating tale about three generations of one family living through the 1980s Lebanese civil war is based on personal history ... A subtle, pertinent depiction of civilian life in the midst of bewildering conflict." - The Guardian (UK)
"Nathalie Abi-Ezzi's debut novel, A Girl Made of Dust, is a timely reminder of the agonies thousands of Lebanese families had to go through during the years of the Lebanese Civil War ... Through Ruba's worries about her family, Abi-Ezzi skillfully introduces the reader to a life in fear of bombs and stray bullets, as well as to how new hope can be born from affliction." - Socialist Review (UK)
"I could not put this down - A Girl Made of Dust is at once tender and tragic and Nathalie wonderfully evokes that transient aspect of childhood where everything is possible. It is a book that begs to be re-read ... [and one] you cant help but think about long after you finish. A truly remarkable story." - Patricia Wood, author of Lottery, short-listed for The 2008 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction
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Rated of 5
Lola T. (Broken Arrow, OK)
A Girl Made of Dust
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Written from the viewpoint of a very young girl, this book is by no means a children's fiction book, but a look at conflict in Lebanon through the eyes of an innocent. This lens is at once frustrating (your grown-up brain wants this child to wise up!) and effective in evoking a feeling for this war-torn area of the world. The author is quite skilled in evoking the sounds of bombs, the tastes of the food, the heat, the beauty of flowers (roses, especially), the dust and the fear. For an unusual and very personal view of the war and the confusing political and religious divisions, I would say take a chance and read this book. It is not lengthy and you will come away with understanding as only a child give.
Rated of 5
Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)
I was reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird while reading this novel. This is a child's view of her world and its day to day perplexities surrounded by a larger world of horrific events which intrude ever more painfully. Told in a deceptively simple style, the narrative draws in the reader with glimpses of family secrets waiting to be revealed.
Rated of 5
Phoebe B. (Sacramento, CA)
Tried for several weeks to finish this book but...
Could not get past the first 50 pages. I felt that it was perhaps intended for young adults. I did not feel compelled to finish after 50 pages and not feeling I was getting to any real point in the story. The characters were not becoming familiar to me as I feel they should have been in a compellingly crafted novel.
Based on what I read I think an average reading is more than generous.
Rated of 5
Rosario D. (South El Monte, CA)
A Girl Made of Dust
The writing style is simple and straightforward. This is a captivating book that allows us to see war through a child's point-of-view. A really good read, highly recommend it.
Rated of 5
Melissa M. (Ridegfield, CT)
A sensitive portrayal of heartbreaking Lebanese conflict
I wanted to read this book particularly because we have so few available novels in English that take place in and describe the recent Lebanese war years from a personal perspective and I wanted to know more about this period and country's cultural history from this aspect. I found the book sensitive to its subject, interesting, and meaningful.
The characters are real, and sensitively drawn and their experiences poignant. It is hard to imagine that children of Ms Abi-Ezzi's generation who were born and grew up during these times, from 1974 onward only know of an existence within a country of constant political conflict. This novel gives us some insight into a child's experience, interpretation and understanding of a very complex world, still living in distressing circumstances. I would like to read more books on the subject from different perspectives.
Rated of 5
Stephanie W. (Hudson, OH)
I wish I knew more
A Girl Made of Dust was a very engaging story that kept me interested and wondering what was going to happen. The problem was that it sometimes also had me wondering what was happening! I am not familiar with the setting and had to ask my History Teacher husband to explain what was going on. Once I learned a little more about Israel and Lebanon in 1981-1982 I could follow the plot more easily. I wish the book had an introduction that contained some of this information. However, I very much enjoyed reading it and would recommend it as a book that gives insight into what it feels like to live in a war ravaged country. Book groups would find much to think about and discuss.
Born in 1972 in the Metn region of Lebanon, Nathalie and her family moved to England in 1983 when Israel invaded Lebanon. She won the Radio 4 Dotdotdot short story competition in 2001. She is the author of The Double in the Fiction of RL Stevenson, Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier (2003) and has co-edited various books. This is her first novel.
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