Read advance reader review of Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas

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Ghost Season

A Novel

by Fatin Abbas

Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas X
Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas
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  • Published:
    Jan 2023, 320 pages


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  • Sharon J. (Raleigh, NC)
    Ghost Season
    Ghost Season is the story of five characters that live at an NGO compound in South Sudan in 2001, including several Sudanese, an American map maker, and a Sudanese American filmmaker. As a civil war is coming closer to their small village of Saraaya, the native Sudanese are being moved from their small shacks while trying to survive and make some sort of living. The characters are very well developed, their relationships become entwined while they try to sort out what is going on around them. I was truly drawn into this story.
  • Susan B. (Memphis, MO)
    intense, challenging, excellent read
    This was a rough one for me, content-wise, but certainly worth reading in my opinion. Unsurprisingly given the setting (civil war in Sudan), this was an intense read, with much challenging content. I learned a lot about the cultures written about, appreciated windows into many lives so different from mine, cringed at the "white savior wannabe" behavior of one character, and was horrified by the careless viciousness and cruelty of so many acts and actors. I had to take several lengthy breaks from reading due to the latter. It wasn't unrelenting, as there were also lovely portrayals of kindness and care, and much of the writing itself was really beautiful - I more than once found myself going back to read a sentence or phrase several times for the sheer enjoyment of the author's language, especially word choices. Highly recommend, but be prepared for a close up view of the horror and stupidity of war.
  • Barbara O. (Red Bank, NJ)
    What a Read!
    Remember her name, Fatin Abbas. "Ghost Season" is her debut novel but I anticipate more stories to follow. I could visualize Saraaya, smell the dust, hear the noise of the crowded marketplace and imagine the people. Fatin Abbas's five main characters introduce the reader to Sudan and through a well written story allows us to see the humanity and tragedy and challenges of living in a conflict torn country.
    These characters will be remembered and invite some great discussion for book clubs.
  • Patricia G. (Washington, DC)
    A beautiful debut
    In her first novel, Fatin Abbas pulls together the lives of five very different people against the backdrop of the Sudanese civil war. It is a slim book and a quick read, because the story is so engaging. Abbas's knowledge of the politics of Sudan, the horrors of violent conflict, and the bureaucratic workings of an NGO are impressive, which makes her novel heartfelt and very real.

    As the book opens, the five main characters are living and working together at the NGO. Alex, a white American aid worker seems to be the "odd man out" of the five, at times seeming to refuse to understand the customs of the country in which has has been assigned. His impatience is a hindrance and embarrassment to his translator William, who his trying to guide Alex through the bureaucracy of the Sudanese government. William is discovering that he is deeply in love with the compound cook Layla, and Dena, a Sudanese American filmmaker, struggles with the homeland she barely remembers and the identity she is trying to forge for herself. Intertwined among them is Mustafa, a ingenious and sometimes infuriating twelve year old, who is working to support his widowed mother and younger brother. As the reader comes to know these five people, a tragic turn of events accelerates the story toward the end (no spoilers here!).

    As I thought about this story in the weeks after I finished it, I was amazed at how well I felt I knew each of the characters--in a book of only about 300 pages. I am looking forward to reading more of Abbas's work in the future.
  • Lucy S. (Ann Arbor, MI)
    What a debut!
    I was awed by this debut novel. Abbas' beautiful, descriptive writing plus the viewpoint of five characters made for such an immersive reading experience.

    This history is so recent and important, and yet I have come across very few novels that highlight the conflict in South Sudan. Because we hear from five different voices, we see the motivation behind actions we might normally question and Abbas demonstrates how complicated and tenuous the situation was for each of the five.

    It is a sad story, but not without joy and even some humor, most especially in the interactions between these five, unforgettable people.

    This book will stick with me for a long time. After a debut like this, I look forward to reading more from Fatin Abbas!
  • Shelley S. (Great Neck, NY)
    Seasons of pain and hope
    Ghost Season manages to focus our attention simultaneously on the horrors of the encroaching civil war in Sudan and on five characters whose lives intimately intersect despite their lack of commonality. Because the characters have diverse backgrounds and reasons for being in Sudan, they offer sharply varying perspectives on the events and circumstances around them as well as on their personal aspirations. The result is a deeply immersive story which draws you in to the poverty, violence and tragedy while also portraying friendship, love and hope. We can feel the heat, the sense of dislocation and the fears of the characters but also their emerging humanity. The universal racism and tribal conflicts were well presented.
    I did feel however that in an apparent effort to set up the characters and the events the book devoted too many pages to background before delving into the essence of the story.
  • Gail H. (Live Oak, FL)
    Study in Contrasts
    For some reason, I procrastinated in reading this book. Perhaps it was because I feared the setting in Sudan would be grim & poverty stricken. Indeed, the residents of Saraaya live a life most of us would find difficult to endure. However, Fatin Abbas has created some of the most vivid and realistic characters I have encountered in years. Just as the filmmaker, Dena, carefully framed her photos to present the picture she wanted, Abbas sketched her characters to perfection. What a welcome treat!

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