The Last Watchman of Old Cairo Summary and Reviews

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

by Michael David Lukas

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas X
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2018
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

In this spellbinding novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.

Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary—perhaps magical—Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph's family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 depart their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a moving page-turner of a novel from acclaimed storyteller Michael David Lukas. This tightly woven multigenerational tale illuminates the tensions that have torn communities apart and the unlikely forces—potent magic, forbidden love—that boldly attempt to bridge that divide.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"... although the story is dramatically diffuse, it is redeemed by the author's vision of a more hopeful world where Jews and Muslims come together over a shared cultural heritage." - Publishers Weekly

"Lukas enlivens a fascinating epoch when Jews and Muslims bridged cultural divides for a common cause. Part mystery, part character study, yet historically accurate, this book should appeal to a broad swath of readers." - Library Journal

"An appealing family drama illuminates the fascinating story of a famous repository of Jewish documents, the Cairo Geniza." - Kirkus

"A beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is both a coming-of-age story and a family history, a wide-ranging book about fathers and sons, religion, magic, love, and the essence of storytelling. This book is a joy." - Rabih Alameddine, author of the National Book Award finalist An Unnecessary Woman

"Michael David Lukas has given us an elegiac novel of Cairo....But his greatest flair is in capturing the essence of that beautiful, haunted, shabby, beleaguered, yet still utterly sublime Middle Eastern city." - Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years

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Author Information

Michael David Lukas

Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a waiter at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, he is a recipient of scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Summer Writers' Institute, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and Elizabeth George Foundation. His writing has appeared in VQR, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and Georgia Review. He lives in Oakland, California, less than a mile from where he was born. When he's not writing he teaches creative writing to third and fourth graders at Thornhill Elementary School.

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