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Fencing with the King: Book summary and reviews of Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber

Fencing with the King

A Novel

by Diana Abu-Jaber

Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber X
Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber
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About this book

Book Summary

A mesmerizing breakthrough novel of family myths and inheritances by the award-winning author of Crescent.

Amani is hooked on a mystery―a poem on airmail paper that slips out of one of her father's books. It seems to have been written by her grandmother, a refugee who arrived in Jordan during the First World War. Soon the perfect occasion to investigate arises: her Uncle Hafez, an advisor to the King of Jordan, invites her father to celebrate the king's sixtieth birthday―and to fence with the king, as in their youth. Her father has avoided returning to his homeland for decades, but Amani persuades him to come with her. Uncle Hafez will make their time in Jordan complicated―and dangerous―after Amani discovers a missing relative and is launched into a journey of loss, history, and, eventually, a fight for her own life.

Fencing with the King masterfully draws on King Lear and Arthurian fable to explore the power of inheritance, the trauma of displacement, and whether we can release the past to build a future.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The writing is propulsive — but silkily so, wending on limber paragraphs that allow Abu-Jaber to move with ease across a wide-ranging story that probes conflicted identities. As Abu-Jaber leans further than ever into her Palestinian American roots to craft this subtle story with the resonance of folklore, she illuminates what has been outstanding about her craft all along." - Sarah Cypher, Washington Post

"A resonant and pointedly perceptive story about family, Middle East history, and creating new narratives, whether as individuals or nations." - Library Journal (starred review)

"[A] romance takes up a good chunk of the final act, but it's less gripping than the plot involving Hafez. Still, Abu-Jaber ably captures the tenuous role of Jordan in the mid-1990s Middle East peace process while unearthing a family's buried secrets. It adds up to an engrossing family drama." - Publishers Weekly

"A slightly overwrought family drama set against a fascinating backdrop of late-20th-century Middle Eastern politics." - Kirkus Reviews

"Abu-Jaber spins a mesmerizing tale of displacement...this is a haunting look at the pull the past exerts on us." - Booklist

"Diana Abu Jaber outdoes herself with this brilliantly paced and utterly absorbing novel. From start to finish, her dynamic prose and seemingly effortless storytelling create an original narrative of love, intrigue, and family/global dynamics. Fencing with the King is a flavorful page-turner that will both nourish and satiate. You are in for a treat." - Laila Halaby, author of Once in a Promised Land

"Fencing With the King is a delicate arabesque of intertwining family relationships. Moving through the bouganvillia-splashed villas of upper-class Jordan, a poet raised in America struggles to decode her father's world of allusion, indirection and heartbreaking secrets.  The novel probes the cost of exile and voluntary expatriation, asking: When is inheritance a blessing, and when is it merely a burden?" - Geraldine Brooks, author of The Secret Chord

"Fencing With the King, about a young American woman's encounter with her Jordanian family and their complex legacy, is a rare pleasure. Abu-Jaber's rich characters live and breathe around you, and her nuance and wit bring the largest themes to irresistible, present life." - Claire Massud, author of A Burning Girl

"The best novel I've read all year: shimmering prose, compelling emotion, and utterly impossible to put down. Rarely has the terroir of ancestry been so masterfully evoked. Abu-Jaber's best yet." - Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef

"I read Diana Abu-Jaber's Fencing With the King in one sitting -- I couldn't stop. Ambitious, vivid, compelling, and full of life, this rich family story tells so many truths and uses family myths and fables to explore complex history, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds of exile and displacement. An absolute must read." ― Etaf Rum, author of A Woman is No Man

This information about Fencing with the King was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Tracy B. (Pittsboro, NC)

Family history
I loved this book. The characters are vivid, entertaining and full of surprises. The culture experience of a learning curve for Amani, starting from the what to wear to royal events, the falcon competition, to the ancient traditions
The beautiful writing, adventure along with the plots twists and turns kept me enchanted. A great book for any book group. Now I want to read more of her books!!!

Gabi

Family Secrets Unveiled
An elegant novel "Fencing With the King" is unlike anything I have read recently. Throughout the book I felt transported to Jordan while watching the story unfold. Intricate and poetic storytelling, not always easy to follow, was fitting to the Hamdan family dynamics as well as the history, the politics, and cultural nuances of this region of the world. And while the story builds slowly, a twist makes the waiting all worthwhile. It was a fascinating read.

Susan L. (Alexandria, VA)

Fencing with the Truth
This book will transport you to the desert and sing to you of times past. It was written so well it practically had sand in its pages. A beautiful story of a woman finding herself while facing hidden truths about herself, her family and their secrets. I missed Jordan after turning the last page. Wonderful book. I highly recommend it.

Marion C. (Peabody, MA)

Fencing with the King
Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber captured my imagination and the story caught my interest immediately. I enjoyed the story. Amani's new interest involved her father Gabi's life as a child in Jordan. When an invitation came for Gabi to go to Jordan to fence with the King for his sixtieth celebrations, Amani suggests she would like to go with him. She learned her grandmother wrote poetry and wanted to find some of her poems. In addition, she wanted to learn more about her father's family. There is a hint of two mysteries early in the story with surprising results building up to a great end. This is a wonderful read.

Cindy

Fencing With the King
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found the story engaging from beginning to end. It would make a great book club choice as there is much in the book to discuss.
The author takes the reader on a trip to Jordan with American born Amani and her Jordanian born American father Gabe. The author immerses the reader in the culture and landscapes of Jordan as well as introducing the reader to family inter-dynamics and political mechanisms. Seldom does a book transport a reader so clearly to another country very different than our own. Fascinating!

Marion T. (Palatine, IL)

Fencing with the King
I am afraid to say that I did not know anything about Jordan, the culture, the traditions or the politics, and was looking forward to reading this book. I was not disappointed. Diana Abu-Jaber hooked me from the beginning. Her storytelling unwound a story about the country, people, traditions, culture and politics while slowly unfolding a decade long mystery of one family. Looking forward to reading more from Diana!

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Diana Abu-Jaber Author Biography

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including Crescent and The Language of Baklava. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Author Interview
Link to Diana Abu-Jaber's Website

Name Pronunciation
Diana Abu-Jaber: AH-boo JAH-ber

Other books by Diana Abu-Jaber at BookBrowse
  • Origin jacket
  • Crescent jacket

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