Excerpt from Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Origin

A Novel

By Diana Abu-Jaber

Origin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jun 2007,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: May 2008,
    384 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


“One of my babies is involved?” Margo draws herself up. “I wouldn’t care! Mortgage the house, go rob a bank. Who cares? I’d want to know that I’d done everything in my earthly powers.”

“I think that’s why she came looking for Lena,” Alyce says evenly.

“Maybe I’d hire a hit man,” Margo says. But then she sighs and glances at me.

I look down. I don’t want to eat this tuna, even though I just made it myself this morning; I put it back on the wax paper wrapping and fold it up. I can feel Margo looking at me, her irises so dark they blend into her pupils. “Lena?” I slide the sandwich back in the paper bag. “Lena?” Her voice is tenuous. “Do you, you know, sense anything on this one?”

I shake my head. I can see the mother in her face. I see her waiting in there like an animal in a cave. I look down and say, “No, nothing in particular.” Sometimes the crime circumstances and motives come to me so clearly that I’ll feel shaken for days afterwards. I’ll see the crust of blood on an embroidered handkerchief and the motives come to me out of nowhere: she wanted to kill her husband for a long, long time. Or: he was always afraid of the other children at school. Or: she couldn’t take the noise in that house one second more.

Once, I collected a wilted page of notebook paper from a crime scene, that turned out to have been dampened with tears, and I saw it: the man writing that page knew that his killer was coming.

But I smile at Margo and say, “Just doesn’t seem that unusual.”

“No, I didn’t think so,” she says.

Forensics takes a straightforward approach: it leans scientific principles up against the pursuit of the law. One set of rules crosshatches the other. You gaze at the hair and skin fibers scraped from under a victim’s nails: first under a hand lens, then the microscope, waiting for the legal-scientific thing called “evidence” to appear. The hope is, of course, that the harder and closer and longer you look, the more you see. But sometimes the thing you must do is lean back, relax, close your eyes. You can’t rush.

I watch Margo settle into the chair. Her unconscious hand taps the purse where she keeps her children’s photographs. Sometimes in the Lab, we’ll say things just to soothe each other. Margo has decided, for now, to believe me. She knows full well about the way evidence can look when you stand in one light, then change utterly when you stand in another. She nods again and squeezes my hand. “I’m paranoid,” she says weakly.

“What do you expect?” Alyce brandishes one hand as if we were at the gates of hell. “Working here?”

“The worst humanity has to offer, on a daily basis,” Sylvie says. “It’s like when medical students start to think they’re getting all the diseases they’re studying.”

Alyce says, “We think we’re gonna get all the crimes.”

Margo is smiling but she doesn’t stop gazing at me, either. My eyes feel hot, x-rayed.

The women look at each other, then laugh as if startled, the sound rippling around me, silvery little waves at the base of a rock, swirling with anxiety.

The detectives think the Lab techs are a little creepy—with our jokes and our attitude. But the street police, the infantry, know—you’ve got to hang on to a sliver of humor. We’re piece-workers, trained on our segment of the mystery. Which is just how I like it—working in a mute space all my own.

Margo says, very casually, “It’s a good thing you don’t have any of your own, Lena. Really girl, you are so so lucky.”

Reprinted from Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber. Copyright (c) 2007 by Diana Abu-Jaber. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.